Residents at a retirement home in Cologne, Germany have been told that their weekly bingo game, which had been ruled as illegal, is now being awarded a three-month license. As long as the winners only get chocolates as prizes…
Change in Fortunes
In a dramatic u-turn, the Sozial-Betriebe care home had initially banned the regularly scheduled bingo game for over 100 residents on Monday. This decision came after city authorities had informed the care home that the games were taking place in breach of German gambling laws.
Pensioners residing at the home would all be required to contribute a €0.50 for each game. The pot is put together to purchase chocolates. The lucky winner each week is then rewarded with the chocolates.
City authorities became aware of the weekly bingo game after an accountant realized that the organized bingo games could be contravening German law and brought the issue to the attention of the necessary department.
However, within a matter of hours, the ban was overturned after city authorities made the move to grant the care home a temporary license for a 12 week period with a view to offering a more permanent license further down the line.
A lawyer for the care home confirmed that the application process for the license was simplified because city authorities concluded that the popular bingo games should be classified as “small lotteries”.
Care home manager Gabriele Patzke said, “We were completely speechless at first when we heard about it, we never thought that we, a senior citizen’s institution, were running an illegal gambling ring.”
A spokesperson for the Cologne city authorities stated that, “We hope to solve this quickly and unbureaucratically by giving them a three-month permit.”
What Is Bingo?
The game of bingo is a game of probability. Players must mark numbers off on a card as matching numbers are randomly called by a caller. The first person to mark all their numbers off on the card is declared the winner.
Its origins can be traced as far back as Italy in 1530. It is not until the 18th century that the game became popular across Europe by migrating across to Germany, France, and the UK. It has been a popular form of gambling across Europe ever since.
Gambling in Germany
Gambling is generally legalized throughout Germany. However, there are stipulations to the laws that prevent some forms of gambling from being allowed, whereas others require licensing to operate.
For example, lotteries cannot be operated with the intention of personal or commercial gain. Instead, they must be conducted in aid of charity, sporting events, or for cultural reasons. This is where the red tape became a problem for the residents of Sozial-Betriebe.
The act of gambling is a popular activity across Germany. The largest casino in Germany is the Spielbank Do-Hohensyburg located in Dortmund. It boasts 34 classic casino game tables, 10 poker tables, and 360 video machines.
German gambling laws are slightly stricter when it comes to online gambling. It is largely illegal to gamble online in Germany. Hosting a betting site within Germany is considered illegal. However, German citizens can still place bets on betting sites that operate abroad.
Even though German law states that it is technically illegal to place a bet on a gambling site, even ones that operate from outside the country’s borders, there is no history of a German citizen being punished for placing a bet online.
Despite the lack of clarity surrounding the gambling legal landscape in Germany, things are a lot more controlled than they were a decade ago. Until 2008, gambling throughout the country was largely unregulated.
In 2008, the Interstate Treaty on Gambling was introduced. This outlawed all forms of online gambling in Germany with the exception of sports betting and horse racing provided they were through state-operated sites.
All 16 German states originally signed up to the treaty. However, the state of Schleswig-Holstein withdrew in 2012 and handed out licenses to a number of operators including 888 and PokerStars. Even though the laws of the state were reversed just a year later, the operators awarded licenses were given permission to continue operating within the state until 2018.
OAPs and Bingo – The Struggle is Real
This story of retired pensioners being accused of operating an illegal gambling ring is one that has done the rounds before. However, on the previous occasion it was residents at a sheltered housing complex in Redditch, Worcestershire in the UK that were at the centre of the controversy.
In that particular instance, residents at Harry Taylor House were playing a weekly £1 bingo jackpot but saw their game banned after the local council deemed that players were in breach of the Private Gaming Law.