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EU-licensed gaming operators do not require German state approval, court rules

Gaming operators that serve customers in the German state of North Rhine-Westphalia do not require government approval, a court has ruled, provided that their are licensed in another European Union country.

The state's Supreme Administrative Court (Oberverwaltungsgericht) ruled this week that European Union law - specifically the freedom to provide services - means that a private betting company can operate in the state without a local licence.

The court explained that this due to the absence of enforceable iGaming laws in Germany.

The ruling stemmed from a case brought by an unnamed operator who had submitted a request for a licence. The operator argued that as it was licensed in a different EU member state, it should be permitted to operate in North Rhine-Westphalia.

This argument had previously been rejected by state authorities because of the now defunct State Treaty on Gambling.

The implementation of a system allowing for 20 national online sports betting licences, as set out in the 2012 version of the Treaty, collapsed amid concerns about the transparency of the licensing process and the legislation's compliance with EU law.

Germany has since notified the European Commission of proposed amendments to the Treaty that remove the sports betting licence cap. If approved, the new legislation will come into force on January 1st, 2018.

The court noted, however, that four years have passed since the State Treaty came into force and that it is now seen as effectively void. In light of this fact, EU law, as the only applicable legislation, can be enforced, the court said.

It added that the government of North Rhine-Westphalia has no legal right to challenge EU-licensed operators for serving players in the state. The court also denied the state government the right to appeal, effectively closing the matter.

The only option available to the state to challenge the decision would be a request to have the verdict ruled inadmissible by the Federal Administrative Court.

North Rhine-Westphalia is Germany's most populace state with a population of around 18 million and is home to four of Germany's ten largest cities.

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