|German Internet cafes face an uncertain future thanks to a court ruling that they will require gambling licenses. An administrative high court in Berlin has ruled that all Internet cafés offering games on their computers will in future be required to hold a valid gambling licence. |
The license comes at a price, ranging from E12 ($12.69) to E600 ($634) a month per computer. One raided Berlin café was forced to pay a one-time E85 000 ($89921) tax payment, necessitating the immediate closure of the café.
Prior to the ruling, the German Office of Economic Affairs had been closing down Internet cafés where children and teenagers where playing computer games such as Counterstrike. The Internet café owners petitioned the German courts, claiming that as computers were primarily used for surfing the Internet, no special gaming or gambling licences should be needed.
Since October 2002, Berlin police have repeatedly raided and closed down Internet cafés because they were offering games on their computers. So far, there has been no clear legal basis for this, but the ruling from the Berlin court has now provided it.
The judges argued that a computer requires a gaming license because it can potentially be used as a gaming device. The main reason for the raids on Internet cafés was supposedly the protection of children against gambling and exposure to extremely violent games. This, however, has given rise to somewhat loose definitions by the authorities of what is considered a gambling hall.