Recently, there have been an increasing number of cases in which the German police have taken action against players of online casinos without a German licence. The mostly unsuspecting users are usually accused of Section 285 of the German Criminal Code (participation in unlicensed gambling). But what should you do if you receive a letter from the police and are even asked to appear for questioning as a suspect?

Just a few weeks ago, we at GambleJoe reported that the Federal Minister of Justice, Marco Buschmann (FDP), wants to decriminalise unauthorised gambling. His aim is to downgrade the criminal offence of § 285 StGB to an administrative offence in order not to criminalise the 0815 player in the online casino. However, no final decision has yet been made. The fact is, however, that the Criminal Investigation Department has recently been taking more action against players who play in online casinos without a licence.

Mail from the Criminal Investigation Department about illegal gambling - what should I do?

The shock is usually great when unsuspecting casino players open their mailbox to find a letter from the police. This has been happening with increasing frequency for some time now. The investigating authorities usually accuse those affected of participating in illegal gambling. The law now also defines this as gambling in an online casino without a German licence.

This means that if a provider does not have a licence from the Joint Gaming Authority of the Federal States (GGL) and yet offers virtual slot machines, online poker or other real-money games, then the offer is illegal. It is important to know that such an offer makes not only the operator, but also each player liable to prosecution.

Section 285 StGB (Participation in unlicensed gambling) states:

"Whoever participates in public gambling (§ 284 StGB) shall be punished with imprisonment of up to six months or a fine of up to one hundred and eighty daily rates".

Tip: Anyone who has been contacted by the police and is listed as a suspect in an illegal gambling investigation should not provide any information on the matter and should exercise their right to remain silent.

If the police have sent you a questionnaire, you should only check that your personal details are correct and complete. It may also be noted on the questionnaire that you will not comment on the matter. Under no circumstances should you appear for a personal interview without first seeking professional advice.

It may be advisable to consult a lawyer at this early stage of the process. Whether or not legal expenses insurance will cover the costs will depend on the individual case. It is therefore advisable to contact the insurance company before instructing a lawyer.

Reporting illegal gambling: How can a lawyer help?

If a gambler hires a lawyer, the first step is to request access to the file. This will give the lawyer an overview of what the client is accused of and what evidence is available.

The next step is for the lawyer to consider whether the criminal proceedings can be dropped. This is particularly the case if the evidence is flimsy or if there are formal errors in the file.

Experience shows that experienced lawyers have very often succeeded in stopping criminal proceedings for participation in unauthorised gambling in the case of a "classic" online gambler. Nevertheless, criminal proceedings should not be taken lightly. In the worst case, as described above, you could face a fine or even a prison sentence of up to six months. As recently as the 6th of February we published an article in which we tried to answer the question of why players are active in online casinos without a licence.

At GambleJoe we only list online casinos with a German licence that are 100% legal. This means that players do not have to worry about being investigated.

Online casinos at GambleJoe at a glance!

How do the police get player data?

The police usually obtain player data from payment service providers and banks. These report suspicious transactions to the investigating authorities, as they are legally obliged to do. Recent experience has shown that the savings banks, and in particular Commerzbank, are comparatively quick to report to the police and thus indirectly to their customers.

Note: This article does not constitute legal advice, but merely the personal opinion or recommendation of the author. The author is not a lawyer.

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