German court upholds online lottery betting ban

27 August 2019

The Higher Regional Court of Koblenz in the state of Rheinland-Pfalz has confirmed an earlier ruling by the German city’s lower court that so-called “secondary lotteries”, in which consumers bet on lottery draw results, may not be offered online in the country.

The unidentified Gibraltar-based defendant, which had appealed the lower court's ruling, had argued that its offering was a variant of a traditional lottery, and as such was legal under the State Treaty on Gambling. The State Treaty, which is due to come into force from 1 January 2020, will ban all online gambling, with exceptions for lotteries and sports betting.

The defendant – which offers betting on a range of international and regional lotteries, including odds on the results of German lotteries such as LOTTO 6aus49, EuroJackpot and GlücksSpirale – added that banning the activity would contravene European Union laws.

However, the appeal was dismissed by the higher court. The defendant's core product is a "secondary" rather than "primary" lottery, as it does not organise draws, only allowing bets on other lotteries organised by other providers. As such, the court ruled, it cannot be considered a lottery, and therefore must not be offered online. The court added that the measures do not amount to a restriction on the freedom to provide goods and services under EU law.

The state's lottery, Lotto Rheinland-Pfalz, raised the original objection, according to court documents.

It remains to be seen whether the matter will be taken to a higher court, but there are signs of a possible broader clampdown on secondary lotteries across the country.

Earlier this year, European Lotteries, the association that represents state and national lottery operators across Europe, said that it remains committed to driving betting operators out of the market.

This year has already seen Australia implement a ban on lottery betting, while the UK has outlawed betting on EuroMillions draws. Potential restrictions in its core German market also played a role in Zeal Networks' decision to acquire its former subsidiary Lotto24, which saw the operator shut down its lottery betting business in the country in favour of expanding its lottery brokerage business.