German operators said that sports-betting licences will not be issued in time for this summer’s football World Cup, with many looking ahead to 2015 instead.
Commercial and state operators alike at a conference in Berlin dismissed any hopes that the coveted 20 licences would be active ahead of kick off in Brazil this June.
“No question. It will not happen,” Heinz-Georg Sundermann, managing director of Lotto Hessen, told GamblingCompliance.
“The World Cup is really not the discussion in Germany for the moment. The discussion is this year or not.”
Speaking at Berlin’s Olympic Stadium, home of the national football team, Sundermann said Germany’s state lotteries are “frustrated” because without the betting licence their online unit Oddset ODS has “costs but no sales”.
Oddset is working on the assumption that licences for online and land-based sports betting will be active in the second quarter of 2015.
The World Cup is unrealistic, “but maybe next year”, said Dirk Quermann, chairman of German online gaming firm Merkur Interactive.
They were speaking at the Sponsors Sports Gaming Summit, which was attended by politicians, betting firms, payment processors, media groups and German Bundesliga football clubs.
Hesse government officials, who are in charge of the nationwide licensing, are currently working their way through piles of paperwork after a mid-March deadline for fresh applications.
Lawyers believe it could take one or two months to go through documents from the more than 40 companies asked to resubmit their bids.
The boss of one of those applicants was clear yesterday. “There are no licences in sight for 2014, maybe not even in 2015,” said Sven Ivo Brinck, the new CEO of German bookmaker Mybet.
One of the main reasons is that failed bidders are likely to be told that they have been unsuccessful 15 days before licences are issued, giving them a chance to launch legal proceedings that could take six months or more to process.
The threat of a legal logjam has left state lotteries, which opposed a liberalisation of internet sports betting three years ago, some of the most frustrated applicants for the 20 licences.
“The frustration level is very high, even on the lotteries’ side. The lotteries are really putting a lot of pressure on,” said Wulf Hambach, partner at Hambach & Hambach law firm.
“They are saying: ‘Please provide us with licences, but also with licences that aren’t so restrictive we can’t do business’.”
In March, the Administrative Court of Appeal rejected a case launched by the lotteries in Hesse’s courts to force the authorities to make a decision within three months.
Two further cases at the European Court of Justice, one of which will be heard tomorrow, about the apparent inconsistency in Germany’s licensing process piles further legal scrutiny onto a tender that started back in 2012.
Matthias Spitz, lawyer at Melchers’ Frankfurt offices, said the eventual winners may find the licences unattractive because of their restrictions on in-play betting, laborious identification procedures and the 5 percent tax on betting turnover.
Still, the state lotteries’ trade association, the Deutsche Lotto und Toto Block (DLTB), kept up the pressure yesterday for Hesse to push on with the tender.
DLTB chief executive Michael Burckert called for licences to be issued as soon as possible and for German banks to block payments to unlicensed sites.
That pressure from state companies, combined with the threat of legal retribution by those who miss out on a licence, has left Hesse’s authorities hesitating over their next step.
“They are sitting in a mouse hole and they do not want to come out,” said Stefan Meurer, managing director of German betting firm Maxcat.