Berlin Senate: Is closing the arcades a mistake?

Berlin Senate: Is closing the arcades a mistake?

In Berlin, the Senate has been pushing hard for the closure of gambling halls. The result was the Gaming Hall Act, which was pushed through in 2011. A look ahead to the end of the year shows that only 120 of what were once 500 arcades will then be allowed to open their doors. Politicians in Berlin are celebrating this as a success. Among them is Ramona Pop as Senator for Economic Affairs for the Green Party: "Within four years, the number has dropped by three quarters," she says. Daniel Buchholz, as a member of parliament for the SPD, follows up: "Berlin is very successful in the fight against the flood of gambling halls." Both statements are correct in their form. And nevertheless, a Beigeschmack remains.

A column by Gunnar Schupelius appears under BZ Berlin. He throws the claim into the room that the Senate, by reducing the number of gambling halls in Berlin, has only made gambling harder to control. Furthermore, Schupelius names three places where gamblers now try their luck quite carefree and, above all, uncontrolled. We want to find out what is true about his thesis.

Are the café casinos in Berlin the greater evil than the gambling halls?

What is a café casino anyway? Legally, cafés are allowed to set up up to three slot machines. As an aside, an arcade is currently allowed to have a maximum of eight gaming machines. But a census at the end of 2019 announced the impressive figure of 2,500 café casinos. Assuming each of these establishments had the permitted quantity of three machines, we're talking about 7,500 gaming machines. This amount would fit in over 935 arcades. We remember: Berlin has "managed" to reduce the number of arcades from 500 to probably 120 by the end of the year. Well then, congratulations.

Of course, these figures alone are not meaningful. But according to a rough estimate, 1,500 such café casinos are said to have still existed in Berlin in 2018. In short, in parallel with the closure of the arcades, these particular cafes have experienced a real boom. So where is the difference between a café casino and an arcade? The pure gambling establishments are now only allowed to be open from 11 o'clock in the morning, until 3 o'clock in the morning. The café casino is to be kept open by the operator if desired, 24 hours a day. While in a gambling hall real personnel must be present for player protection and for the control of the regulations, in a Café Casino from the principal the presence of a coffee machine is sufficient. But this fragrant fellow doesn't educate you about player protection. At most, it keeps you awake so that you can play even longer.

Distance regulations for Berlin arcades: The reason for the drastic reduction of establishments in Berlin is the distance required since 2011. 500 meters must lie between the halls. Currently, the last applications for grandfathering are also expiring. This will further reduce the number of arcades. Will café casinos increase at the same rate?

If no Berlin gambling hall is available, then at least an online casino is.

It is the third place, where according to Gunnar Schupelius, illegally played and/or the protection of the clientele is not ensured. Purely legally, this statement is at least true in terms of legality. Whereby the casino providers refer to their EU license from Malta and the associated freedom of services. In fact, we have a different opinion when it comes to virtual casinos. Because these are definitely controlled by the Malta Gaming Authority, for example. On top of that, the player has an independent organization as a contact in case of a dispute. However, we agree that the displacement of gaming halls also leads customers to the Internet. Admittedly, going to this source, customers have consistently said that they are feeling better there than at the cafe casino or illegal backroom. Politicians should also see it that way. After all, the new gambling law is being worked on for 2021. Even the toleration of online casinos until then has been brought up for discussion.

Illegal gambling in Berlin backrooms is booming

The closing of gambling halls has apparently led to the emergence of more illegal gambling dens in the back rooms of pubs and bars. Gambling flourishes there, especially on weekends. Whereas real jobs have been destroyed in the legal gambling halls, here even civilian police investigators have to be deployed to uncover the criminal goings-on. Of course, it is difficult to calculate how many such backroom gambling operations took place before the arcades were closed. What is known, however, is a case that occurred in May of 2020.

For in Neukölln, more precisely in Schierker Straße, the officials carried out a raid. Seized were 30,000 euros. Ten people were arrested. According to initial findings, gambling had been going on there for weeks. Incidentally, not everything is always above board at the café casinos either. In 2018, a routine inspection of 31 of these establishments took place. The result: Eleven times, the officers uncovered illegal gambling. 54 administrative offenses were counted, which can be attributed to gambling. It came to the confiscation or shutdown of 23 automats because these did not correspond to the legal basic conditions. Briefly about expenditure: 50 workers were involved in this larger examination.

Gaming halls have the order to protect their customers! The Café Casinos and all the more in the illegally operated backroom exist however no such regulations. Thus the players are driven by the destruction of the play halls into the illegality.