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Germany – EGBA submits EU state aid complaint over German online poker tax

By - 1 June 2021

The German Bundesrat’s proposal to level an additional tax on online poker and slots will provide a substantial and unfair tax advantage to the country’s land-based gambling establishments and be in breach of EU state aid rules, according to a formal complaint submitted by the European Gaming and Betting Association to the European Commission.

EGBA has submitted a formal state aid complaint to the European Commission in response to the German Bundesrat’s proposal to set a 5.3% tax on online poker and slots stakes in the country. EGBA believes the proposed tax breaches EU state aid rules because it would apply only to online operators and lead to online poker and slots stakes in Germany being taxed at rates 4 to 5 times higher than land-based gambling establishments.

EGBA, representing Europe’s leading online betting companies, has previously warned that the proposed online tax would result in a substantial and unfair tax advantage to Germany’s land-based gambling establishments. In Bavaria for example, the tax measure would lead to online poker and slots stakes being taxed at rates 4-5 times higher than their equivalent in land-based casinos and rates 15 times higher than slots offered in land-based amusement arcades, resulting in a tax advantage of €290 million each year for the state’s land-based operators. EGBA believes that this constitutes an illegal state aid under EU law and estimates that the extent of the illegal aid for land-based gambling establishments in Germany would be €741m each year should the tax measure be approved.[3]

Maarten Haijer, Secretary General, EGBA, said: “We have previously made our concerns about the tax proposal known to the German authorities but to no avail and they will now need to justify the measure under EU law. We appreciate the efforts made in recent years towards introducing a new online gambling regulation in the country and recognise that an appropriate tax will need to be paid by online gambling operators. However, the rate of the proposed tax is punitively high and will distort market competition and directly benefit Germany’s land-based gambling establishments over their online counterparts. We call on German politicians to rethink the proposed tax rate and bring it closer in line with the tax rate applied to online casino products in other EU countries.”

The proposed 5.3 per cent tax on online poker and slots stakes would equate to a tax rate of ~125 per cent on an online casino operator’s profit or gross gaming revenue (GGR) and would be four to five times higher than the 25 to 30 per cent GGR-based tax the state of Bavaria applies to poker and slots offered in its land-based casinos and 15 times higher than the effective 8% GGR-based VAT tax applied to slots offered in its land-based Bavarian amusement arcades. This would result in a substantial tax advantage for land-based operators in Germany. For the state of Bavaria alone the advantage would be as high as €290m each year.

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