Germany to Restrict Visa Payment Options at Online Casinos

  • Authorities cracking down on unlicensed offshore gambling sites, unauthorized transactions
  • Visa has instructed banks not to process online casino deposits, withdrawals via credit cards
  • Some operators have removed Visa payment option, risk access to other markets if not compliant
  • German state treaty on gambling seen as not being in line with current European Union law
  • PayPal stopped processing German customers' payments to offshore platforms in 2019
Visa card on computer keyboard
Visa will no longer be supporting transactions at unlicensed online casinos targeting German players. [Image: Shutterstock.com]

Complying with local laws

Online casinos that are targeting German players without holding a local license will no longer be able to offer Visa as a payment option. This comes as authorities in Germany continue to crack down on illegal online casino operators and unauthorized transactions. 

The NDR German media outlet reported Wednesday that Visa had instructed its partner banks not to process any online casino deposits or withdrawals through its credit cards. This is being done to ensure that only legal and properly licensed transactions are permitted. 

Changes not made across the board

A number of online casinos have removed the Visa option from their platforms in recent weeks. Operators have informed that they risk losing Visa access in all markets if they do not suspend payments in Germany.

Yet, there have been some discrepancies in the approach taken by online casinos to date. Gambling brand Bwin is still allowing its sports betting customers in Germany to use Visa for their transactions.

German state treaty on gambling as not being in line with current European Union law

Bwin representatives informed NDR that they consider the German state treaty on gambling as not being in line with current European Union law. The treaty effectively criminalizes any unlicensed online casino offerings. 

Ongoing battle by the authorities

Germany has been committed to stopping transactions to illegal gambling platforms for some time. In 2019, PayPal announced it would stop processing payments from German customers to offshore gambling platforms, starting October 21. Local banking associations have also received reminders about their obligations regarding online gambling transactions. 

Last month, the Lower Saxony Ministry of the Interior stopped an international payment provider from conducting transactions relating to illegal gambling in the country. While the name of the payment provider was not made public, other processors were set to receive “further prohibition orders”. 

The Ministry is dealing with 19 different payment processors regarding unauthorized transactions. To date, nine of these companies are no longer processing payments on behalf of offshore gambling platforms targeting German customers.

Germany’s gambling landscape

Germany has been working towards establishing a licensed online casino sector over the recent years. It is currently looking to open up the sector, which will entail significant limitations such as a €1 ($1.10) maximum stake on slots games and a deposit limit of €1,000 ($1,100). The European Commission has criticized such measures.

The plan is to have a licensed online gambling sector in place by the start of July 2021. The Fourth Edition of the State Treaty on Gambling will need approval from 13 of the 16 federal states in Germany to pass into law.

With sports events across the world being canceled or postponed during the coronavirus pandemic and retail gambling facilities closed, Germany has seen an increase in online casino activity. Google searches for “online casino” in Germany spiked from mid-March to mid-April, hitting all-time highs. 

The German Bundesliga soccer league is now back in action behind closed doors, with sports wagering opportunities expected to resume as a result.