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The German city of Bremen is considering closing all of its betting shops after the interior senator said their owners failed to convince him they were not fronts for money laundering.
Bremen, Germany’s smallest city-state, announced on Wednesday that it had sent denial notices to 32 establishments that had applied for betting licenses under a new gambling law, which means that any bet placed on their premises would be considered illegal with immediate effect.
Betting shops have until August 5 to legally challenge the decision or provide the senate with documents showing how they obtained their seed capital to open their business in the first place, such as a loan agreement with a bank.
Authorities in Bremen say they are tackling a problem that is not unique to their city but widespread across Germany. A 2019 report from the Department of Finance and Federal Policing said criminals not only use legal gambling practices to launder dirty money, but often invest money directly to buy betting shops.
In some of these cases, all the gambling activity taking place on the store premises was simply “simulated” and the profits appearing on the books came from illegal activities such as drug dealing, according to the report.
Unlike in Britain, where most street betting establishments are run by large gaming companies such as William Hill or Ladbrokes, in Germany betting shops are mostly run by small businesses that purchase a license from franchise with large corporations.
“Basically, it is a question of verifying the reliability of these operators. We also want to ensure that no money from dubious businesses such as drug trafficking or human trafficking is laundered here and thus enters legal monetary cycles,” said Ulrich Mäurer, Senator for Bremen. for internal affairs.
In recent months Bremen authorities have approached four major betting companies that operate in the city, asking them to provide written evidence of how their franchisees acquired their start-up capital, usually a sum of up to 120,000. €.
None of the betting shops had since submitted documents that met the requirements of the authorities, a spokesman for the Senate of Bremen said. In one case, a gambling license application was rejected because the betting shop was located too close to a school, rather than due to missing documents.
“Other states in Germany are watching with particular interest what we achieve by taking this step. If we are successful, I expect many of them to follow suit,” a spokeswoman said, Rose Gerdts-Schiffler.
The closures were criticized by the German Sports Betting Association, whose chairman, Mathias Dahms, said the city’s actions were “arbitrary, legally questionable and completely disproportionate, driven solely by political goals”.