The recognition of eSports as sports was not taken up by the new federal government in its coalition agreement. The difficult discussions from the last legislative period are still having an effect. However, political work is actually taking place, albeit partly under the radar. The parliamentary group on eSports now has more than 60 members.
However, the course set in central federal states is at least as important. Most recently, the coalition agreements of the “Conservatives-Greens” state governments in North Rhine-Westphalia and Schleswig-Holstein show: Recognition of eSports goes far beyond the recognition as a sport.
In North Rhine-Westphalia, some practical challenges of eSports are addressed. For example, the new state government wants to advocate for the possibility of recognizing eSports clubs as non-profit organizations. This shows that improvements with practical effects for the clubs in question can be achieved beyond the broad discussion about the exact status of eSports. This would also create legal certainty for “traditional” clubs that would like to offer eSports. With a corresponding change, they would no longer be threatened with the loss of their non-profit status if they integrated an eSports offering. The “know-how of traditional sports support” would also be transferred to the area of eSports and the “E-Sports Player Foundation” would be expanded. The same applies to the promotion of diversity in the field of eSports.
Schleswig-Holstein has also dedicated an entire section of its coalition agreement to the field of eSports. An e-sports academy is to be developed in cooperation with science. There are also plans to promote the organization of e-sports events in Schleswig-Holstein. The establishment of a state-specific association for e-sports is supported – which is also to take over the management of the state center for e-sports. The recognition of e-sports at the federal level as a non-profit organization is to be supported. Further substantial improvements are envisaged through access to municipal spaces.
However, the Schleswig-Holstein coalition agreement also emphasizes the cross-state dimension of eSports. As part of the growth and professionalization perspective, the state government is also striving for legally secure solutions for betting on eSports. This will provide an important impetus for the further development of gambling regulation. However, the other federal states are also involved in the practical implementation – currently via the gambling college (Glücksspielkollegium), and from 01 January 2023 via the Joint Gambling Authority of the Federal States.
North Rhine-Westphalia and Schleswig-Holstein are clear examples: positive agenda setting is possible and sensible in the area of eSports. Both coalition agreements are miles away from the debates about “killer games” experienced a few years ago. They underline the effectiveness of a constant exchange with the state and municipal level. This exchange creates a better understanding of the actual opportunities and challenges facing eSports in Germany.
However, a look at potentially more critical side effects of eSports is also visible in both North Rhine-Westphalia and Schleswig-Holstein. North Rhine-Westphalia sees racism in eSports as a topic on which a more in-depth exchange would be useful. In its coalition agreement, Schleswig-Holstein talks about “countering the risks of e-sports”. To this end, clubs are to be encouraged “to expand structures for addiction prevention and media education.” The risks of lootboxes are also addressed, although – correctly – not directly mixed with eSports.
In the end, both coalition agreements show: “Politics” wants to act. In order for the result to bring the best possible answers to the current issues, eSports organizations as well as publishers and the entire “ecosystem” must actively communicate their priorities. Then they will encounter a politically favorable environment.