|Online poker is booming in Germany with up to 290,000 people regularly playing and spending at least $1.5 million in 2006 even though the pastime is officially illegal.|
According to the English-language Deutsche Welle broadcaster, it is only legal to gamble in casinos for money in Germany but no one has yet been prosecuted for playing online, leaving the booming Internet market in a grey area. This could explain why former tennis professional Boris Becker became the face for Isle of Man-based online casino PokerStars.com nine years after hanging up his racket.
Deutsche Welle stated that game providers' servers are located outside Germany in places such as Gibraltar, Malta and the Seychelles to make questions of jurisdiction difficult for prosecutors to answer. In addition, it said that Germany's tax authorities have a monopoly on the land-based gambling business and pocket more than half of the industry's earnings in corporate tax but that online gambling remains unregulated with profits circumventing State coffers.
Officially, Becker advertises the non-commercial division of PokerStars.com where players deal in fake money but that the aim, according to Deutsche Welle, is to interest people in the online casino’s ‘real money’sites, which reportedly draw in huge profits.
The news broadcaster also reported that online beginners can get themselves in serious debt by overestimating their abilities and mistaking luck for skill. Tobias Hayer, a psychologist from the University of Bremen, is quoted as stating that online poker has considerably lowered the threshold for compulsion.
'There's no social monitoring anymore,' said Hayer.