State aid: Commission opens investigations into possible advantages for public casinos operators in Germany

The European Commission has opened an in-depth investigation to assess whether the special tax treatment of public casinos operators in Germany is in line with EU State aid rules. In a separate decision, the Commission has also opened an in-depth investigation into specific measures adopted in North Rhine-Westphalia with regard to the public casinos operator active in that region. In Germany, public casinos operators (Spielbankunternehmen) are subject to a specific tax regime that replaces a series of otherwise applicable general taxes, in particular corporate, income and trade taxes. The Commission has received several complaints from companies active in the gambling sector in relation to certain aspects of this specific tax regime as well as an alleged guarantee for public casinos operators to remain profitable. The formal investigation aims at clarifying whether this specific tax regime entails an unjustified economic advantage for the public casinos operators in the form of a lower tax burden in comparison with the normal tax rules. With respect to certain measures adopted in favour of the public casinos operator active in North Rhine-Westphalia, the Commission will investigate, also based on complaints, if alleged annual loss compensation payments as well as a capital injection in 2015 by North Rhine-Westphalia in favour of the public casinos operator in the region, have granted an undue advantage to the operator. The opening of an in-depth investigation gives Germany and interested third parties the opportunity to submit comments. It does not prejudge the outcome of the investigation. In parallel, the Commission has concluded that no aid is involved in the alleged direct concession to operate another public casino in North Rhine-Westphalia. More information will be available on the Commission’s competition website, in the State Aid Register under the case number SA.44944 and SA.53552 (tax-related aspects) and SA.48580 (specific measures for the public casinos operator in North Rhine-Westphalia).