Germany online poker overview

Last Updated: November 15, 2018 at 12:25 pm PST
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Germany is home to numerous poker superstars, such as Fedor Holz, Christopher Vogelsang, and Ole Schemion, so people tend to assume that it’s a very poker-friendly country. Unfortunately, this isn’t exactly the case.

Aside from Schleswig-Holstein, Germany does not have any online poker-specific regulations. Nobody seems interested in pressing the issue on the federal or local level. As is often the case in such circumstances, the law is somewhat ambiguous. Thus, players are largely left to their own devices.

Germany online poker laws

Generally speaking, Gambling laws are considered a part of the public order domain. This means that they are managed by the state (Bundesland) level.  The local Ministries of the Interior usually supervise land-based casinos.

Specific regulators are assigned certain competencies in accordance with the Interstate Treaty on Gambling. For example, the Hessian Ministry of the Interior and Sports is responsible for sports betting licenses. Meanwhile, authorities of North Rhine Westphalia manage advertising permissions for lotteries and bookmakers.

What is or is not legal in Germany?

This is where things get a little more confusing. The Interstate Treaty prohibits any German business from hosting online poker games. However, it does not specifically prohibit German citizens from playing real-money games operated by companies licensed abroad. This begs the question: would it be possible for one of those states to prosecute a German player?

Theoretically speaking, the answer is yes. So far though, no players have been charged with any crimes due to activities related to online poker.

Consequently, most German poker enthusiasts simply shrug the matter off and do their thing. The situation is basically the same as in pre-Black Friday America.

What confuses the situation further is the fact that Schleswig-Holstein issues  its own online gambling licenses. In fact, many high-profile Europe-facing poker operators have acquired them. Such a license essentially confirms that it is legal for Schleswig-Holstein residents to play on any site that holds it.

Poker rooms with such a license include:

Up until the 1980s, the legal gambling age in Germany used to be 21, but 12 out of 16 states lowered it to 18 since then.

Where can I play poker online in Germany?

As briefly touched on above, German residents have unrestricted access to all the major poker networks operating on the international market. The German government has never attempted to prosecute individual operators. As such, operators don’t have a reason to ban Germans from joining their platforms. Consequently, German players have access to international player pools. Meanwhile, many of their European colleagues make do with fenced, low-traffic sites.

PokerStars

PokerStars overview

Undoubtedly the largest online poker network in the world, drawing in more players than all other West-facing sites combined. PokerStars is also the only site offering the full experience when it comes to online poker, including a sense of belonging to an actual community, a thing quite rare nowadays. With great welcome bonuses and recurring promotions, only sub-par customer support mars PokerStars’ image.

PokerStars game choices

PokerStars is the only sites where offerings outside of Hold’em actually draw players. Omaha and various mixed games both have active player bases. There’s also a staggering array of MTTs and SNGs taking place every day, including some for Omaha.

Other locations where PokerStars operates

There’s also local support for fenced markets in:

888poker

888poker overview

Since launching in 2002, Gibraltar-based 888poker carved out quite a chunk of market share for itself. It even surpassed its closest rival, partypoker. It’s known for offering a stable and consistent array of game modes to both cash game and tournament players. Additionally, it is a World Series of Poker sponsors, allowing their user-base access to WSOP satellites.

Between the best no-deposit bonus on the market, the soft competition compared to giants like PokerStars, and support for browser-based play, 888poker is a solid choice for both recreational and advanced players.

888poker game choices

Standard cash game modes include Hold’em, Omaha, and Stud (each with multiple variants). No-Limit Hold’em is the only format to see action on a regular basis.

As far as regular MTTs are concerned, there are the weekly Sunday Mega Series and the daily Fish’n’Chips and HighRollers, to name some. There’s also several SNGs, including two 888poker exclusives.

Other locations where 888poker operates

Besides the global site, local poker rooms are available in Spain and New Jersey.

Party Poker

partypoker overview

Now, partypoker has had its ups and downs since their launch in 2001. It used to be the largest online card room in the world until legislative changes forced it out of the American market in 2006.

The soft competition and good cashback system attracted hoards of professionals and spiked the difficulty, causing the site to start losing traffic. Things settled down since.  Now the poker room attracts many recreational players, as well as a decent number of experienced grinders.

partypoker game choices

Hold’em is king, while Omaha and Stud available but not very popular. However, partypoker offers lots of MTTs for all kinds of players, as well as some sit & go tournaments.

Other locations where partypoker operates

There are local sites for New Jersey, Spain, and France.

Where can I play live poker in Germany?

German poker rooms tend to be way larger than those found in France, but the number of available venues is significantly smaller. All in all, Germany has a total of 158 tables spread across 26 different venues. Below is a list of what we feel are the most interesting places to play:

  • Casino Flensburg Poker (Süderhofenden 16, 24937 Flensburg)
  • Casino Kiel Poker (Holstenbrücke 30, 24103 Kiel)
  • Poker Saar (Fernstraße 51, 66538 Neunkirchen)
  • Casino Schenefeld Poker (Industriestraße 1, 22869 Schenefeld)
  • Spielbank Bad homburg Poker (Bad Homburg vor der Höhe, Kisseleffstraße 35, 61348 Bad Homburg vor der Höhe)
  • Spielbank Bad Kissingen Poker (Im Luitpoldpark 1, 97688 Bad Kissingen)
  • Spielbank Bad Neuenahr Poker (Felix-Rütten-Straße 1, 53474 Bad Neuenahr-Ahrweiler)
  • Spielbank Bad Steben Poker (Casinopl. 1, 95138 Bad Steben)
  • Spielbank Baden Baden Poker (Kaiserallee 1, 76530 Baden-Baden)
  • Spielbank Do-Hohensyburg Poker (Hohensyburgstraße 200, 44265 Dortmund)

Germany and poker-related taxes

By default, German residents aren’t required to report any poker-related income. That’s basically all there is to it. If you’re a recreational player, it’s just you, your bankroll, and the rake. Unfortunately, this does not apply to professional players. If playing online poker is your primary source of income, then you must report your poker-related revenue.

Theoretically speaking, this could be perceived as an admission of guilt. However, charging a player for reporting poker-related income would obviously discourage other players from paying their taxes. This is possibly why the authorities choose to behave as if everything is legal.

As mentioned above, Germany has never charged anybody with any poker-related crimes so far. However, that doesn’t guarantee that it won’t happen sometime in the future.

All things considered, it’s a rather uncomfortable situation. Nonetheless, judging from what happened in other countries where players faced a similar situation, the risk is pretty much non-existent.

History of online poker in Germany

The legal stalemate in Germany is pretty much as old as the game. The Interstate Treaty that banned online casino gambling and online poker in 15 German states went into effect in July 2012. It didn’t have any practical impact on online poker in the country though.

It’s also worth noting that German authorities previously tried forcing local Internet Service Providers to block access to online gambling sites on more than one occasion.

Each time this happened, they were essentially laughed out of the court as soon as the ISPs reminded them that, according to German regulations, telecommunication companies are not responsible for the content they provide.

The Schleswig-Holstein regulations were introduced in February 2013, following a year-long legislative effort. Virtually every operator interested in obtaining a Schleswig-Holstein license applied for it as soon as the new law was on the books. Each license was issued for six years, which means sites will need to renew in early 2019.