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GGL changes leadership as battle with black market continues

| By Zak Thomas-Akoo
Jorg Sibbel, the chair of German gambling regulator Gemeinsamen Glücksspielbehörde der Länder (GGL) will exit the organisation on 1 July, to be replaced by Udo Götze, state secretary in the Thuringian Ministry of the Interior and Municipal Affairs.
GGL new chairman

Six months on from the GGL taking over all tasks as gambling regulator, the body will be updating the chair of its board of directors. This is in line with the Fourth State Treaty on Gambling, the interstate agreement which created the GGL.

Under the rules, the body’s leader changes every year on 1 July. Each chairman is chosen by a German state, which take their turns in alphabetic order.

GGL appoints new chairman

Sibbel reflected on the challenges ahead for the incoming minister.

“I see the chairman in a good position to be able to carry out the tasks assigned to them in issuing permits and combating illegal gambling offers on the internet, which is already clearly evident in the ongoing implementation,” he said. “The colleagues in the GGL have the fullest trust of all sponsoring states.”

GGL new chairman
Jorg Sibbel’s tenure saw many of the GGL’s early milestones

Sibbel chaired the GGL between 1 July 2022 and 30 June 2023. His tenure saw many of the regulator’s early milestones.

The chairman’s first day in office saw the organisation take over from its predecessor, the Saxony-Anhalt state department.

On 1 January, the organisation assumed all remaining responsibilities for regulating the gambling market. This involved taking over the day to day licensing and regulatory responsibilities from the various state-level departments where they had been nested.

The future chairman Udo Götze added: “All 16 countries support the GGL with conviction. Regulating the transnational gambling market in Germany is a challenging task. The GGL can also be sure of the support of the sponsoring states under the chairmanship of the state of Thuringia.”

Götze will be taking over an organisation that has spent the previous year working to mitigate the reach of the black market.  

Fight against unlicensed market

In addition to announcing a new chairman, the GGL has also released its annual report. The report includes its analysis of the state of the illegal market in Germany.

As of December 2022, there are 207 unlicensed operators in the country offering gambling services through 843 German language websites. Of these operators, 136 offer multiple forms of gambling, while the remaining 71 specialise in just one activity.

GGL new chairman
there are currently 207 unlicensed operators in the german market

In terms of where the operators base themselves, 37 work from within the EU and 147 are based outside.

Curaçao-based businesses represented the majority of non-EU organisations, at 132. However, 23 operators could not be traced to a single country.

The GGL said that it was forced to estimate the revenue totals. This, it said, was due to there being isolated evidence for the amount of business that the unlicensed operators conduct.

“It is assumed that the illegal websites recorded account for a market volume of between €300m-€500m, whereby these are mainly generated from the segments of illegal secondary lotteries, online casino games, virtual slot machines and sports betting,” said the GGL.

This represents approximately 2%-4% of the white licensed market in Germany. The regulator said it intends to publish a more detailed analysis of the illegal market in the autumn.

Cases test limits of regulator’s authority

The GGL has also spent much of the previous year in court as legal challenges test where the limits of the regulator’s authority lie. In February, the regulator’s ISP blocking order against Malta-based lottery betting business Lottoland was declared unlawful by a Higher Administrative Court.

GGL new chairman
a number of legal cases have tested the limits of the ggl’s authority

In March, the organisation won a Munich case that classified a televised sweepstakes offering as gambling. More recent cases include rulings which have confirmed the GGL’s remit over advertising and ruled that the body can penalise operators over affiliate violations.

Concerning the battle against the unlicensed market, GGL board member Benjamin Schwanke said: “We are successfully working together with all the key players in the fight against illegal gambling.

“Here, too, we always keep an eye on new developments, such as camouflage as a competition. The judgment of the Munich Administrative Court in the spring shows that we are not powerless against it.”

Board member Ronald Benter added: “We can look back on a successful first half of 2023.

“We will continue along the path of consistent legal enforcement in the issuing of permits and supervision. The first court decisions confirm this. At the same time, we remain in dialogue with the industry regarding new challenges.”

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