Germany’s online poker market is beginning to feel the negative impact of the country’s new tax laws. After Unibet Poker and PokerStars cut their poker offerings, more online poker sites have decided to either leave the German market or cut their services, as a result of the new legal framework.
Partypoker, GGPoker, and Betsson, a skin running under the iPoker Network, have recently notified their German players of the changes they’re introducing as a result of the new 5.3% rollover tax which took effect on July 1.
Online poker sites operating in Germany would all agree that the new tax regime would make it unviable for them to offer certain games, given the excessive tax rate they’re required to pay.
Cash games are the most affected due to the way they’re played. For example, if a player buys in for €100, the operator will effectively be charged a 5.3% tax even if that player plays just one hand. In certain scenarios, the site could be forced to pay multiples of the 5.3% rate due to the fast-changing nature of the games. For this reason, it comes as no surprise why the affected sites have decided to scrap their high-stakes cash games.
As of July 1, Unibet Poker has effectively terminated all of its cash games and single table tournaments in Germany, along with its loyalty rewards program. PokerStars recently followed suit by also cutting some of its cash game offerings, particularly removing its medium- and high-stakes games. On top of that, the operator has also imposed new maximum stake limits for its jackpot-style Spin & Go’s, and also introduced major changes to its Sit & Go offerings.
Now, let’s take a look at the changes implemented by partypoker, GGPoker, and Betsson for their German players.
German players recently received an email from partypoker informing them that the site has implemented changes to its cash games and Sit-and-Go’s as a result of the new rollover tax.
German players will now be only able to play cash games with stakes below $2/$5 at partypoker. This change also covers the site’s “Fastforward” games. In addition to that, the operator is also imposing an extra 5.3% surcharge to entry fees for Sit-and-Go’s, though all stakes and games will still be available. German players can play multi-table tournaments as they are, without any changes. Partypoker intends to swallow the 5.3% tax for MTTs at the moment.
The German online gaming market will inevitably change due to the new tax laws, but partypoker assured everyone that the site remains committed to meeting its obligations as one of the leading providers in the country.
Meanwhile, German players on GGPoker will no longer have access to the site’s VIP cash games, including the All-in or Fold (AoF) featured tables. They will also not be able to use the “Move Table” function for the time being. In addition to that, GGPoker is terminating its High Roller tournaments, as well as satellites for those events.
Additional changes could be on the way with the operator stating that it will make a separate announcement in mid-July. GGPoker has also hit out at the German government for implementing what it described as a “disproportionately high” tax which was conceived “without any effort to understand how the game works”.
Betsson has decided to pull out of the German market altogether, and also decided to suspend its affiliate payments owing to the new tax laws. The site said it’s exploring the possibility of obtaining a land-based casino license in the country.
Germany’s federal parliament, the Bundestag, went on to approve the new rollover tax, despite strong opposition and warning from leading industry bodies which have declared the 5.3% levy as “excessive”, and would only lead German players to illegal sites.
Furthermore, the new turnover tax gives land-based operators an unfair advantage, violating EU state aid laws. This issue is the subject of two separate formal complaints filed with the European Commission by the European Gaming and Betting Association (EGBA), and the Deutsche Sportwettenverband (DSWV), two bodies representing gaming operators in Europe.