Mr Green Closes German Serving Sportsbook with Immediate Effect
Online sportsbook and casino operator Mr Green has withdrawn from the German sports betting market. In an email sent to affiliates, the company said the decision was due to rules to regulation and legal advice they had received.
Visitors from Germany who access the Mr Green website will see the company’s casino product, but there is no longer a sportsbook tab on the main landing page, and the category sports is missing from the drop-down menu.
Germany is currently in a state-of-flux to regards to gambling legislation. In 2019, German states ratified the introduction of the Interstate Gambling Treaty. The treaty has been referred to as a “placeholder” which will govern gambling in the country until a new legal framework, is introduced in June 2021.
Mr Green asked third parties to remove any mention of the sportsbook from their marketing material and online content. While the email did not detail the company’s long-term plans for the brand, a later statement released by the firm stated;
We continually review the legal situation regarding our presence in different markets, and this decision has been in light of the latest advice regarding Germany.– Mr Green Statement
The treaty, which came into effect this month, removed the previous cap on the number of sports betting licenses that could be issued. The government had previously granted 20 licences, but responsibility for issuing new licences moves now to the German state of Hesse.
To qualify for a licence to operate a sportsbook, operators must agree that they will not operate any online casino sites from the date of the issuing of the licence. The only exception to this is for the Schleswig-Holstein region in which it is legal to use licenced casino services. Operators must also operate a registered business office in Germany and provide their licencing details to the Hesse regulator.
Other licensing conditions include the operator providing a ‘social concept’ officer, whose duties will include ensuring responsible gambling measures are introduced. They will be the first point of contact for customers who show signs of problem gambling. Companies also need to ensure a protection officer is employed who must give full written explanations of what processes and safeguards are in place to ensure customer safety.
It would appear that Mr Green has made the business decision to not apply for a licence to operate a sportsbook in Germany; instead, they are concentrating on continuing with their ‘grey’ casino offering. This is not a route that all operators are taking, bet365 for example, taking the opposite approach by ceasing all their German casino activities.
The Stoke-on-Trent operator contacted affiliates in December asking, “Can you please arrange for any promotion of any of bet365’s non-sports products in German to be removed from your sites by Monday 30th December”. The company gave no reason for this change.
Whether Mr Green’s gamble pays off is likely to be closely watched by operators already involved in the German market. In December, interior minister of Hesse warned online bookmakers that online gaming is prohibited as part of the terms of the temporary betting licence it is working on. Regulus Partners, who are renowned analysts who specialise in the iGaming industry have stated that they believe there is a “very high risk” of strong action against non-compliant operators from the administrators and/or the courts early in Q1 2020.
William Hill acquired Mr Green in November 2018. The then chief executive Philip Bowcock said the purchase was to help with the diversification of the William Hill. Bowcock said the purchase made them a more digital and more international business and due to Mr Green’s international hub in Malta, it would allow “strong growth momentum in several European countries”. William Hill paid SEK 69 (Swedish Krona) a share for the operator (£241.8m), a premium of 48% of the share price at the time.