A controversial new rollover tax was approved by Germany’s federal parliament, the Bundestag and it came into effect on July 1, 2021. The new law imposes a 5.3% tax on both online poker and online slots, prompting multiple operators to reduce their services in the country.
In May, Unibet announced a partial withdrawal from the German market effective July 1, due to the implementation of the new tax laws. German players will no longer have access to the site’s cash games and single-table tournaments, and will no longer earn rewards via Unibet’s loyalty program.
Now, the world’s biggest online poker site PokerStars is also terminating some of its game offerings for its German players. Unibet and PokerStars are just two of several online operators forced to either cut their services or completely leave the country because of the new tax measure.
Multiple Games Scrapped
PokerStars announced the changes to its operations in Germany via a blog post on June 24 but said they were hopeful that German officials would make a last-minute U-turn. That did not happen, as the Bundestag went on to approve the new tax laws, despite criticisms and concerns from leading industry groups.
As a result, PokerStars has effectively removed all of its medium- and high-stakes cash games, and also introduced drastic changes to its Sit & Go offerings.
Effective July 1, the maximum stakes available for PokerStars’ cash games in Germany are as follows: No-Limit Hold’em/Pot-Limit Omaha – $1/$2), 6+ No-Limit Hold’em – $2/$2, Tempest – $1/$2.50/$5, Fixed Limit Games – $3/$6.
In addition to the cash games, some of PokerStars’ single-table tournament offerings have also been affected. The site’s popular jackpot-style Spin & Go’s now have a maximum stake of just $50. The operator also scrapped all of its Heads-Up Sit & Go games, with the majority of its German Sit & Go satellites also completely removed. Furthermore, the site also reduced options for its Hyper-Turbo Sit & Go.
The “Pool Block” system, which has been implemented across PokerStars’ 6+ Hold’em games for quite a while now, will now apply to every cash game table. This means German players will now be required to play a predetermined number of hands, preventing them from playing very short cash game sessions.
PokerStars retained its multi-table tournament offerings without implementing any changes. Most of the site’s Turbo and Regular Speed Sit & Go’s also remain available for its German customers.
No More High-Stakes Cash Games  
Explaining its decision, PokerStars said offering high-stakes cash games in Germany would no longer be unviable, as the new tax rate is excessively high, describing it as a “tax on buy-ins”. For instance, if a player pays a buy-in of €100 and plays at least one hand, PokerStars would be taxed €5 on that session alone. For this reason, the site is increasing the cash game rake for its German customers by up to 35%.
PokerStars said it was disappointed that it had to introduce such changes, but assured its players that it’s doing everything it can to reduce the cost to its German players.
Bundestag Ignores Warning from Industry Bodies
Germany’s federal parliament was undeterred by warnings from industry bodies that the new rollover tax would further push local players to unlicensed sites.
The excessive rate has also been criticized by the European Gaming and Betting Association (EGBA) and the Deutsche Sportwettenverband (DSWV), asserting that the new levy puts online operators at a disadvantage over their land-based counterparts, which is a clear breach of EU state aid laws. This prompted both groups to file separate formal complaints to the European Commission, which has yet to offer any input on the matter.
Unibet Poker and PokerStars are the first two operators to publicly announce major changes to their German operations as a result of the controversial rollover tax. Many other online operators are expected to follow suit.

TightPoker Staff

TightPoker Staff

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