German man found guilty of playing illegal online blackjack

Online blackjack has been around for about two decades now, and while many regions of the world see nothing wrong with the activity, certain jurisdictions have strict laws surrounding participation. Such is the case in Germany, where a Munich man was convicted of playing online blackjack illegally.

The judgment and sentencing of the 25 year old man actually occurred months ago on September 26, 2014 (Ref: 1115 Cs 254 Js 176411/13). However, news of the man’s conviction did not surface until just recently. With more light being shed on the situation, it’s causing a great deal of controversy.

image courtesy Jared Tarbell via flickr creative commonsAccording to the court’s documents, the incident of online blackjack gambling that led to his arrest occurred in 2011. The defendant was accused of playing online blackjack at an unlicensed gambling website, ‘probably’ from his home in Munich for an undetermined number of times, ‘but at least once’ from his ISP. The online gaming site he was accused of playing at, nor the owner of that website, was disclosed in the published documents.

The basis of his conviction was centered round the fact that the Terms of Use at the online blackjack website in question, which must be accepted by a player before participation in real money games, stated that ‘Internet gambling is illegal in some countries’ and requests that players ‘examine existing laws’ in their jurisdiction before participating. The filings also pointed out that that text in the Terms of Use was not determined in 2011, when the incident occurred, but rather in 2014, when the case was being heard.

To participate in any form of gambling over the internet is illegal in Germany, unless the website’s operator is licensed by German authorities. The website in question was licensed in Gibraltar. The online blackjack player admitted to participating in the games, but claimed that he was unaware he was doing so illegally. The controversy stems from the fact that most online gamblers do not bother to read the Terms in the first place

Yes, those terms are there for a reason, and players must accept them in order to play, but the argument is that they are generally worded in such a manner that only an avid connoisseur of legal jargon would comprehend their meaning. Furthermore, when reflecting on the legal status of online gambling throughout the entire European Union, particularly in 2011 when the incident occurred, Germany has been considered to have one of the most complex and muddled legislative carriages in the region.

The defendant’s online blackjack play occurred in 2011, when the Interstate Treaty on Gambling 2008 was still in effect, yet the courts invoked the more recent Interstate Treaty in Gambling 2012 when trying the case. The first version makes it illegal for an operator to provide services in Germany without a German license. In addition, it has not yet been determined whether the 2012 version is justifiable under the laws of the European Union.

The defendant was formally accused and convicted of participating in an unlicensed public game of chance on the grounds that ignorance is not a valid excuse for breaking the law. He was sentenced to pay a fine of €2,100, on top of the amount of €63,490 in winnings said to be confiscated from his attic. According to the official press release from the Munich Court on January 2, 2015, the judgment has not been finalized, which alludes to the defendant having invoked his right to appeal the verdict.