Officials in the northern German state of Bremen have reportedly ordered the immediate closure of all local retail bookmakers amid fears that some of the establishments are being used as a front for illegal money laundering activities.
According to a Thursday report from The Guardian newspaper, the move was accompanied by a demand for such sportsbetting enterprises to supply evidence that they are not fronts for crime and operate appropriate anti-money laundering (AML) protocols.
Bremen with its population of about 680,000 people is Germany’s smallest state and reportedly disclosed on Wednesday that it had refused licenses for 32 local establishments who were looking for permission to offer retail sportsbetting under the federal government’s recently-ratified New State Treaty on Gambling (GluNeuRStV). These concerns now purportedly have until next Friday to legally challenge the decisions or supply paperwork such as bank loan agreements showing exactly how they obtained their start-up capital.
The Guardian reported that unlike the United Kingdom where most retail sportsbooks are run by giant corporate operators such as Entain or BetFred, betting shops in Germany usually entail smaller businesses that have purchased their franchise licence from a larger firm. The newspaper went on to divulge that Bremen recently unsuccessfully asked the state’s four biggest sportsbetting companies to supply evidence as to how such miniature partners had acquired their start-up capital, which can often run to as much as €120,000 (122,000).
Authorities in Bremen reportedly noted that they are looking to tackle a money laundering problem that is not unique to their city but has become increasingly widespread across the whole of Germany. They purportedly furthermore cited a 2019 study from the Federal Ministry of Finance and the Bundespolizei law enforcement organization that found criminal gangs were often buying legitimate sportsbooks so as to launder dirty cash obtained from illicit activities such as drug dealing and people smuggling.
Ulrich Maurer serves as the Interior Minister for Bremen and he reportedly told the newspaper that this federal investigation discovered that some of the highlighted dodgy sportsbetting operations had only conducted ‘simulated’ operations with their resultant profits being solely from illegal activities.
Maurer reportedly told The Guardian…
“At its core, this is about checking the reliability of these operators. We also want to guarantee that no money from dodgy businesses like drug dealing or human trafficking is being laundered here and thus flows into legal money cycles.”
For her part and a spokesperson for the government of Bremen, Rose Gerdts-Schiffler, reportedly proclaimed that the fresh closure move may have attracted criticism but is being looked at ‘with close interest’ by officials in other German states and cities.
A statement from Gerdts-Schiffler reportedly read…
“If we are successful, I expect many of them will follow suit.”