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DSWV files EU state aid complaint against German turnover tax

| By Daniel O'Boyle
German industry body Deutscher Sportwettenverband (DSWV) has filed an EU state aid complaint against the country’s Federal Council (Bundesrat), arguing that proposed igaming tax rates offer an unfair advantage to land-based operators compared to online.
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The complaint deals with the proposed tax rates under Germany’s fourth state treaty on gambling, which allows for online casino nationwide and has been approved by all 16 states, meaning it will come into force on 1 July.

The Bundesrat has sent a proposal to the legislature (Bundestag) for final approval, which is expected to be granted. The proposal is currently being examined by three different committees.

However, under this framework, online slots and poker would be taxes at 5.3% of turnover, a rate that many in the industry have argued would be unworkable. For example, a report from Goldmedia – commissioned by Entain, Flutter and Greentube – warned that half of all German slots players may end up playing with unregulated sites if turnover is taxed at 5.3%.

As a result, the DSWV confirmed to iGB that it has filed a complaint with the European Commission, arguing that the tax rates should be classed as illegal state aid in a move that may delay implementation of the treaty. 

Under European law, a member state is not allowed to give an advantage to “specific companies or industry sectors, or to companies located in specific regions” in a way that affects trade through interventions such as tax rates. There are, however, certain exceptions, some of which may be granted on a case-by-case basis.

This criticism had previously been levelled by the European Gaming and Betting Association (EGBA), which said the tax was “punitive” and favoured the land-based industry over its online counterpart.

While land-based tax rates can vary by state, Goldmedia estimated the difference in tax bills between the land-based and online sectors in Bavaria would come to €293.9m, with slot halls seeing the largest advantage at €178.1m.

Currently, operators may offer online gambling in Germany through a transitional regime, where online casino is permitted but only under the terms of the new treaty. These terms include restricting slots to a €1 stake limit per spin, with an average spin speed of five seconds. Operators such as LeoVegas and Bet-at-Home said these restrictions have already hit revenue in Q1.

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