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Man walks into a bar… on holiday

| By Kevin Dale | Reading Time: 5 minutes
Kevin Dale extends the analogy of gaming and alcohol regulation, painting a picture of how different regulations affect the level of channelisation across Europe.

Read about the man’s first trip to a bar, from December 2021.

A man on holiday walks into the Eierschale with his mates. The group were on leg four of their European beer tour but things weren’t quite going as planned.

The Warsteiner just didn’t look or taste the same. The man was expecting the usual crown of white schaum on top of his stein, but the foam took up two thirds of the glass. He used to enjoy that unique mix of creamy cold hops and barley, that dry aftertaste and even the white ’tache you acquired from that first sip. But on this trip he had to get a noseful of froth before the liquid hit his taste buds.

“Ein Schnitt Bier wie in München – aber zum doppelten Preis,” the barman said with an awkward smile. Not sure what that meant, the man turned to leave the bar as a voice loosely translated behind him, “A half of a half, for twice the price. It’s like a glass half-full, you know… we need to stay optimistic in these days… I’m from East Berlin, you see!” 

Feeling more diddled than amused, the man took his glass back to the table. At least they seemed to be apologetic, but at nearly €15 a glass, half of it air, so they should: they were competing with the street sellers at Checkpoint Charlie, flogging their cans of Berlin air.

Before the trip, he had heard that new alcohol regulations in Germany were big news. In fact, the regulations were big news across the whole of Europe, and it reminded him of those strange Covid years. Looking down now at his glass of foam, pondering how the bubbles managed to stick together and how much each was worth, the man found himself sympathising with the bar staff. 

Under his glass he spotted the beermat ads in four languages, paid for presumably by the new regulator, all bearing stark warnings of the dangers of unlicensed premises. But this clearly hadn’t stopped a few speakeasies from popping up around town. One, ironically called Reinheitsgebot (after the now defunct beer purity laws of 1516), was the best place to go apparently. Offering 200 different beers, no Schnitts and prices nearly 50% cheaper than elsewhere, it wasn’t hard to fathom why. 

It seemed odd that, despite the scare tactics and the obvious risk to their own custom, even the bar staff were recommending the place. The manager at the Eierschale couldn’t bring himself to disagree either. 

“They’re offering beer in the old one-litre Maß glasses”, he said ruefully. “My two-for-one Tuesdays have been banned and I can’t sponsor the local football team.” There were even rumours that Oktoberfest might be cancelled, with breweries threatening to pull out.

On the first leg of their tour in Greece, they had struggled to find a speakeasy, because of the government’s new snitch line, which rewarded citizens for passing on information about unlicensed premises. But where there’s a will, there’s a way: the 10-minute breaks between rounds that landlords found themselves enforcing meant that the will was very willing. As a result, private parties, home brew and drinking clubs were flourishing in the country. 

The one they managed to crash had a scribbled joke of sorts on the door: “Warning! Maximum 30 seconds between drinking. No entry to more than 99 years.” Most likely the handiwork of their host, who opened the door dressed as Peppa Pig. Not having seen anyone else in fancy dress, the man never did get to ask whether this was a statement, or just a nod to her favourite show from childhood. No muddy puddles in this heat, though.

Over in Norway the man and his mates had been frustrated by the strict admissions policies and the sit-down-only drinking rule – just like back home. Just as they were about to cut short that leg of their trip, someone recommended the now-famous Sentralpuben at Oslo’s main station, where they ended up spending the rest of their time. 

Not being classed as a pub meant the Sentralpuben could serve cheap beer and had a relaxed approach to affordability checks and IDs. It did seem at odds with a government-run organisation but the man wasn’t complaining. “I’m sure they won’t miss that beer glass I tucked in my jacket as a memento,” he thought.

Their time in Belgium started badly as for some reason food and drink couldn’t be served at the same venue. However, things soon improved once they’d downloaded the “JustSayWhere” app. 

Underground drinking apps were best sellers in the app stores and this one was trying to expand across borders. Apple were contesting instructions to ban it, arguing that Android downloads would simply take up the mantle.

Event organisers on the app often asked for prepayment and more than a few partygoers had been swindled. But the ratings system was starting to work and genuine events were rising to the top of the listings. Bitcoin on the door was another trend, while the frequent venue changes gave these parties cult status and kept them a step ahead of the law. The man’s raving days weren’t over yet!

Beertrip.com had launched just a couple of weeks ago, too, ranking beers, venues and countries by price, quality, accessibility and availability. Unfortunately, the man had already booked this trip but agreed with his mates that next time they would change a couple of legs on the tour. Tourism choices based on local drinking rules was now a thing – and those booze cruises did sound appealing. 

Inevitably, much of their pub conversation centred around European restrictions and beer prices, with many a heated argument to boot. “Everyone’s an expert these days and fake news is rife,” he opined. It was not what the beer tour was meant to be about and yet another echo of those strange Covid times. A couple of his friends spent the whole trip complaining while others relished the challenge of finding illicit watering holes.

However, the sight of those two soiled and slumped revellers at a private party the other day had hit home, and they’d seen a few fights too. With no bouncers around, things can easily get out of hand. One of his friends had found it all very amusing and spouted anti-establishment rhetoric at every opportunity, but not the man; with a family history of alcoholism, he knew that addiction was a case of different folks, different strokes.

Back home he had heard some alarming statistics in the news relating to problem drinking. A spokesman for the industry had raised some valid objections as to how the data was collected but then pitched numbers of his own, which just didn’t reconcile with the argument. 

The days of Guinness being “good for you” and Australians not giving a XXXX were long gone; drinking just isn’t cool these days, he thought. Even the so-called “director of mischief” at one brewery had moved on.

The man couldn’t help feeling that if the aim was to reduce alcoholism, many of these restrictions just made the problem worse. Stories of portable stomach pumps at parties were a bit exaggerated, yet that image of the two revellers comatose in a corner wasn’t going away. 

“Spare a thought for the kiosk drinkers found frozen in bus shelters in Belarus,” his friend had said. Unsure about whether or not that was folklore, a Google search confirmed some shocking alcohol mortality stats, though the causes were not quite so clear.

“Here’s one for us on the app: ‘Wobbles not Waivers’, it’s called. Ha ha! Jägerbombs on entry and export-strength only,” exclaimed his anarchist mate. “Ah, but it’s bitcoin only. OK, next one up is…”

He bit his lip since the thought of another Jägerbomb turned his stomach – but you can’t say that on a beer tour. 

Some of the rules seemed to make sense, like refusing to serve drinks to those who were legless, but others were counterproductive. Were the regulators bored, he mused? Did they see their role as the incessant production of new rules? Did they ever revoke any of the rules – or would that lose you the toughest regulator award?

Everything here was prohibited unless explicitly authorised, while the shop-thy-neighbour policy back in Greece was a scary development. Conceding to his friend’s criticism, which echoed back his own words that “everyone’s an expert these days”, he sighed and stared again into his foam. “Why can’t we all play along together, like these bubbles?”

Kevin Dale is the co-founder of Egamingmonitor. He was previously CEO of Gameaccount (now GAN plc) and CMO at Eurobet, Sportingbet and Betfair. 

Egamingmonitor.com is an advisory firm to the gambling industry, with proprietary data covering 40,000 games from 1,300 suppliers across 2,000 operator sites. 

Image: Hofbräukeller München