Operators seeking to overturn the minimum distance requirement for gambling venues in Berlin have had their legal challenge dismissed by the Berlin Administrative Court.
In 2020, legislation was introduced in Berlin mandating a minimum distance of 500 meters between gaming halls and betting shops. The operators argued that this disproportionately favored gaming halls over sports betting outlets and violated European Union law. However, the court upheld the law, asserting that individual jurisdictions have the right to develop their own gambling policies.
The operators also claimed that the distance requirement did little to protect minors and vulnerable individuals from gambling harm. Despite this, the court rejected all complaints, stating that the regulation was legally permissible.
The court emphasized that state legislatures have the authority to decide how gambling is regulated within their regions. It also noted that the regulation was indeed designed to protect players against addiction.
The court further dismissed the charge that the regulations violated European law, citing the State Treaty on Gambling, which allows state legislatures to determine how addiction and player protection are addressed, taking into account the unique circumstances of each state.
As part of its ruling, the court confirmed a separate rule that requires venues owned by the same company to maintain a distance of 2,000 meters from each other. This measure aims to prevent local monopolies and safeguard players from harm.
The Berlin-Brandenburg Higher Administrative Court will allow all proceedings to be appealed due to the significance of the case.
The case stems from the implementation of the Berliner Spielhallengesetz in June 2020, which introduced strict regulations for gaming halls. The legislation prohibits gambling venues from being within 200 meters of schools or other children’s facilities. It also limits operating hours and restricts each venue to a maximum of three devices.
The law received criticism from Novomatic and Gauselmann, who predicted a significant number of closures for the city’s 496 gaming halls. These predictions were largely accurate, as the number of arcades in Berlin declined by 80% since its peak in 2011, with only 120 arcades remaining by 2021.
The decline in arcade numbers varied across districts, with the Mitte district experiencing the greatest decline at 84%, while Lichtenberg recorded the smallest decline at 27%.