Speech given by Siegfried Kauder, MdB (Chairman of the Legal Committee of the Deutscher Bundestag)
Opening ceremony of IMA 2012
Dear Mr. Gauselmann, ladies and gentlemen,
I admit that I had mixed feelings passing a line of young people carrying posters, and I wondered, do these young people undergoing training have a future or don’t they? These young people have a right to a fair answer. I can tell them: If I have my way, you will have a future. You do a good job, you are receiving good training, and you have justice on your side. Therefore I am behind you and will help you to make sure that right remains right.
A state without justice is a banana republic. And ladies and gentlemen, I do not want to live in a banana republic but in a state governed by the rule of law, like the Federal Republic of Germany should be.
Our constitution protects our citizens from state impingements. Freedom of action for all means that every citizen in Germany has the right to find fulfilment in the way that best suits him, without the government being allowed to pass any kind of moralising judgment on what a citizen does. The limits here are acts going against moral law or the rule of law. Government cannot say of its own accord: We pass prohibitions according to our idea of what is right, of what we as politicians do not want. We could also prohibit motorbike riding. It is unnecessary; it just causes a lot of noise. But people may ride motorbikes because they enjoy it. That also is part of developing their personality. And in the area of games, it’s no different. Games, including gambling, are part of human nature. And people decide for themselves whether they want to play or not. Government cannot prohibit it and must accord equal rights to both sides.
Ladies and gentlemen, you will have noticed that I do not mince my words. Citizens have a right to politics they can understand, to a politician taking a clear stand and, in cases where an injustice is revealed, advocating the elimination of such an injustice. Equal rights for all. Why is it that in government-owned casinos people are allowed to gamble and use gaming machines which are basically the same as those in amusement arcades but not subject to the limitations that apply in amusement arcades? Equal rights for all. What am I to tell those young people up there? How am I to explain to them that the Federal states are attempting to preserve their privileges and therefore downright flatten other also obliged to comply with the law, an obligation stemming from Article 20, paragraph 3 of the Basic Law, as every professional politician very well knows. But why then do politicians do something not permitted by the constitution? Let me say it quite frankly: Nobody can hide behind saying: “I was mistaken. I was under the impression that taking action against amusement arcade operators is in line with the constitution.” It’s something everybody must know. All the legal experts say: “This is a case of violation of constitutional law.” We expect our citizens to comply with the law while giving a thoroughly bad example in that respect as politicians. I refuse to accept that politicians risk a professional group taking the case to the constitutional court and politicians then once again being told, “This won’t do. You went beyond the limits set by the constitution.” The government must not simply “flatten” the competition and eliminate it just because it has the possibility to pass regulations that are difficult to contest.
Ladies and gentlemen, I think it shameful that a group should have to defend itself by court action to ensure that right remains right. The government is called upon to set an example, showing young people that law and order are to be respected and that it does not pervert justice for its own advantage. What is happening at the moment in the amusement arcade sector is something a professional politician must not tolerate. And I was somewhat surprised when some people were irritated at the Chairman of the Legal Committee doing no more than his duty. Our duty as legal policy specialists is to make sure that only those laws pass the Federal Parliament that comply with formal legal requirements and with the constitution. I only do my duty. That is why I thought it insulting to be accosted by a journalist with the question: “Are you paid for giving a lecture here today?” Ladies and gentlemen, I think the very question was out of order. I have come here as the chairman of a legal committee, in a political capacity for which I am paid by our citizens. I am paid my fees like any other member of parliament. And I have come here because there is an injustice to be eliminated and not for personal gain.
About ten million people frequent amusement arcades every year to find entertainment there. They are allowed to do so. I do not know how many people frequent a government-run casino. I did two days ago, for the first time. And I was struck by several things there: Leaving your coat at the cloak-room costs 25 cents. That is already a subsidised operation. You are given a free voucher for an alcoholic drink. Citizens are lured to casinos to spend their money there. That’s all fair enough. But the same right must hold for amusement arcades as well. Don’t suffer yourself to be pushed into the background. Come to the fore aggressively and demonstrate that all you do is maintaining an industry which secures a future also for young people because they started training there and will have a profession later on. Therefore it deserves support.
And how am I to face young people and explain to them that the government is a hypocrite with regard to the constitution, taking a generous line with casinos while clamping down on amusement arcades? The reason why in casinos you are allowed to indulge in gambling without any of the restrictions applying in amusement arcades becomes clear from the explanation: “In government-run casinos action is taken against ‘compulsory gambling’.” I had to read that sentence three times to comprehend it. You can only comprehend it if you read the relevant court decisions. They require casinos to take action against “compulsory gambling” because this is the justification for maintaining the government monopoly. Ladies and gentlemen, never in any law have I seen a more dishonest argument. That is not to be tolerated, we must denounce it.
If anybody can explain to me why government-run casinos are a better place for “compulsory gambling” and can better fight it than a private amusement arcade I will be converted. Besides, the argument does not hold. If you prohibit gambling in amusement arcades, a pathological gambler would turn to the Internet – because on average he practices five different types of games. If you ban one of them he will still be left with four; and the fifth he will access via the Internet. Therefore the argument that we must combat “compulsory gambling” and therefore regulate amusement arcades is dishonest and hypocritical and must not stand uncontested. Besides, the number of pathological gamblers is small. The place where “compulsory gambling” happens is the mind and not the games machine. That is why we must help these people to free themselves from their addiction. We must not ban something they can get from the illegal market 24 hours a day.
Ladies and gentlemen, maybe by way of conclusion you should let me tell you: You have kept quiet for too long. You have kept the peace for too long. You have put up with too much for too long. Politicians assumed that they could once again tighten the screw. And again you don’t fight back. You accept the situation. But: Right does not have to give way to injustice. Stand up aggressively for what you want! You are on the good side. This is why I can only advise you: Do not put up with laws like these. Take the case to the Federal Constitutional Court. It’s time politicians felt that policies against the citizens are no good. Policies against the constitution are indecent. Make sure that right remains right in Germany. We do not want to live in a banana republic but in a state governed by the rule of law, something we fought hard for. Therefore I stand by your side and am delighted to be here today and open this trade fair. Keep in good spirits. We will succeed. I support your cause. The constitution must prevail. You are on the right path! Thank you.
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