Auf Wiedersehen, Unibet: Kindred Deals Major Blow to German iGaming Market

Heavy hitters Kindred Group have dealt a major blow to the credibility of Germany’s painfully slow and labyrinthine iGaming legalisation process by pulling out of the market.

The Stockholm-listed, Malta-headquartered operator—owner of top brands such as Unibet, 32Red and Bet24—has decided to dump its German venture and drop its applications for legal, regulated sportsbook and online slots licences.

Unibet, in particular, has hitherto been a big player in the nation’s vast but murky online gaming grey sector.

The Kindred Group has been patiently playing the legal game and trying to obtain bona fide iGaming licences for over two years.

But the company has now decided to throw in its cards and pull out of Germany, the biggest per-capita market in the EU — effective from the first of next month, July.

Following Germany’s Fourth Interstate Treaty on Gambling, which passed into law last July after years of incoherence and legal muddle, licensed operators and stakeholders have been waiting for German authorities to establish a new regulatory agency, the Glücksspielbehörde or GGL.

Perhaps the treaty’s abbreviation, GlüNeuRStv, gives readers some indication of its complexity,

“Our long-term strategic direction sets out locally regulated markets as the core engine for our growth,” Kindred said in a statement.

“Licence application procedures, licence conditions, and the regulatory environment need to be transparent, sustainable, and financially viable for a market to be competitive.

“[But] the current application procedures [in Germany], as well as the terms and restrictions in specific product offerings, means that the overall conditions are not sustainable and competitive against the unlicensed offering.

“Therefore, we do not see a foundation for long-term shareholder value and customer experience at the moment, [although] we appreciate that this position may change in the future.”

Kindred now plans to concentrate its maximum efforts on the North American market and driving responsible gaming across its verticals.

German gaming industry watchers have reacted with understandable disappointment to the news of Unibet’s market withdrawal.

“Unibet/Kindred is a major player in the iGaming industry and is known to contribute positively to our industry,” said Robert Lenzhofer, CEO and Co-founder of Hölle Games.

“As such, the withdrawal from the German market and the statements made by the company carry a lot of weight and do show that the complaints made by the wider industry about the German regulation are not just gambling operators complaining about a tough licensing regime, but a clear indication that the rules laid out by the regulation in Germany will have to be re-adjusted eventually.”