The increasingly advanced technological environments of online gambling companies now allow for sophisticated ways of promoting responsible play among gamblers (Griffiths et al., 2009; Auer and Griffiths, 2013). The use of pop-up messages that appear on-screen while an individual is gambling on a slot machine and/or online is one way of informing players about how much time they have been playing and/or how much money they have spent. Pop-up messages are one of a range of tools that have been increasingly used by gaming operators to help encourage responsible gambling (Griffiths, 2012). Providing specific information in the form of messages to players while gambling is one way of intervening and helping gamblers that play excessively. It is believed that information that is given to people to enable behavioral change should encourage reflection as research has shown that self-monitoring changes behavior in the desired direction (e.g., Gilberts et al., 2001; Hardeman et al., 2002; Schwedes et al., 2002). However, it remains to be determined whether these pop-up interventions deliver the desired effects among the players that receive such messaging.
The Use of Pop-up Messages in Gambling
Experimental studies on gamblers playing slot machines (e.g., Monaghan et al., 2009; Monaghan and Blaszczynski, 2010) have shown that giving players messages that encourage self-appraisal (e.g., “Do you know how long you have been playing? Do you need to think about a break?”) result in a significantly greater effect on self-reported thoughts during playing sessions and subsequent playing behavior compared to pure informative messages. One study reported that exposure to a warning banner informing players of the randomness of outcomes of video lottery terminal (VLT) games decreased faulty gambling beliefs in both problem and non-problem VLT gamblers (Gallagher et al., 2011).
Pop-up messaging has also been used to help gamblers set limits while gambling. Stewart and Wohl (2013) also showed that adherence to monetary limits was significantly more likely among participants that received a monetary limit pop-up message compared to participants who did not receive the pop-up message. In another study, Wohl et al. (2013) simultaneously investigated two responsible gambling tools that targeted adherence to monetary limits among 72 EGM (electronic gaming machine) players. These tools comprised an animation-based educational video (used previously by Wohl et al., 2010) and a pop-up message. In this experiment, EGM gamblers were required to set a monetary limit before commencing play and half the participants were informed when they had reached their money limit via a pop-up message. Both, single and additive effects in addition to possible linear or non-linear interactions were subject to analysis. Confirming previous findings, both responsible gaming tools showed the anticipated single effects. A monetary pop-up reminder helped gamblers to stay within the preset limits. However, no synergy between the monetary pop-up reminder and the animation-based educational information was found. EGM gamblers that received animation-based information in addition to a monetary pop-up reminder did not adhere to the preset limit more often compared to EGM gamblers that only received a monetary pop-up reminder. Another more recent study from the same team also found that pop-up messages can help gamblers keep within their spending limits (Kim et al., 2014).
Studies have also investigated the optimum time at which pop-up messaging should occur within a gambling session. Ladouceur and Sevigny (2009) reported the most effective social responsibility feature was a pop-up message after 60 min of gambling (compared to 15, 30, and 45 min) and resulted in an overall decrease in the length of time spent gambling among players. Schrans et al. (2004) investigated the benefits of a 30-min pop-up compared to a 60-min pop-up on VLTs. They found that earlier exposure to pop-up messages during gambling did not influence either the likelihood of reading the message or choosing to stop play instead of selecting “yes” to continue. A study by Schellink and Schrans (2002) carried out for the Atlantic Lottery Corporation in Canada found out that the 60-min pop-up message was associated with a small reduction in session length and a decrease in expenditure among high risk players. Taken as a whole, these few studies suggest that the optimum time for providing a pop-up message for those who play excessively is after 1 h of continuous gambling.
The preceding literature shows that almost all studies investigating pop-up messages have mainly been conducted in laboratory settings. In a review of the existing literature on pop-up messages Monaghan (2008) emphasized the need for field studies. A study by Auer et al. (2014) investigated the effects of a slot machine pop-up message in a real gambling environment by comparing the behavioral tracking data of two representative random samples of 400,000 gambling sessions before and after the pop-up message was introduced by an online gaming operator. The study comprised approximately 200,000 gamblers of which only a few thousand played sessions comprising 1,000 consecutive games or more. The results indicated that, following the viewing of a pop-up message after 1,000 consecutive gambles on an online slot machine game (i.e., “You have now played 1,000 slot games. Do you want to continue? [YES/NO]”), nine times more gamblers (45 out of a few thousand players) ceased their gambling at exactly 1,000 games than did those gamblers who had not viewed the message after playing exactly 1,000 games (5 out of a few thousand players). The authors concluded that pop-up messages influence a very small number of gamblers to cease their playing session.
Self-Efficacy, Information Giving, and Behavior Change
An important component of any performed behavior is self-efficacy. Self-efficacy reflects the extent to which a person feels capable of performing a behavior and is the focus of social cognitive theory in which individuals learn by observing the behavior of other individuals (Bandura, 2001). Furthermore, self-efficacy is central to almost all information-processing models found in the health communication literature including the Theory of Planned Behavior (Ajzen, 1985), the Health Belief Model (Maiman and Becker, 1974; Janz and Becker, 1984), the Extended Parallel Process Model (Witte, 1992), and Protection Motivation Theory (Rogers, 1983). All of these theories posit that if a message can strengthen self-efficacy beliefs, behavioral change is more likely to happen. More specifically, these theories posit that for information to change behavior, the messages must possess efficacy components, including both self-efficacy (the belief that an individual can do an action) and response efficacy (the belief that a recommended action will have a desired outcome for the individual; Witte et al., 2001; Perloff, 2008). To change a health behavior after exposure to a specific message, individuals must believe there is an action that they are capable of carrying out and that the action will help them adhere to the message (Witte et al., 2001). In any form of persuasive communication with the aim of changing behavior, all of these theories note that it is important to specify which constructs and processes (i) are the most relevant to the target group, (ii) are predictive of the behavior in question, and (iii) can be influenced to promote the desired change in behavior (Donovan and Henley, 2010).
Another potential way of trying to enable behavioral change in gambling is the use of normative feedback. Normative beliefs have significantly influenced the behavioral outcome in studies getting individuals to quit smoking (Van den Putte et al., 2009; Becker et al., 2014), use condoms (Yzer et al., 2000) and reduce marijuana consumption (Yzer et al., 2007). In a study of American college student gambling, Celio and Lisman (2014) demonstrated that personalized normative feedback decreased other students’ perceptions of gambling and lowered risk-taking performance on two analog measures of gambling. They concluded that a standalone personalized normative feedback intervention may modify gambling behavior among college students. In the use of motivational interviewing, Miller and Rollnick (1991) have also emphasized normative feedback as an important aspect in facilitating behavioral change.
The Present Study
As normative feedback and information to aid self-efficacy appear to be essential aspects in influencing behavioral change, the present authors hypothesized that giving such information to gamblers might influence playing cessation if applied to pop-up messages while gambling. To the authors’ knowledge, self-appraisal feedback (i.e., information that helps an individual reflect on their own gambling behavior), normative feedback (i.e., information that compares an individual’s own gambling behavior with others), cognitive belief feedback (i.e., factual information given to the individual about false gambling beliefs), and self-efficacy feedback (i.e., information that provides help on how they can change their behavior) have never been empirically examined in any real-world online gambling setting. Therefore, the present study investigated the effects of a normative and self-appraisal pop-up message among online slot machine players on a real online gambling site. Using the same methodology as a previously published study (i.e., Auer et al., 2014), the goal of the present study was to investigate whether enhanced content on a pop-up message has any additional effect on player behavior (i.e., will more players stop gambling after seeing an enhanced pop-up message compared to a simple message). It was hypothesized that the enhanced message with enhanced feedback content would lead to an increase in gamblers terminating their gambling session after playing 1,000 consecutive slot games compared to those gamblers who viewed a simple information-based message.
Materials and Methods
Background Information and Data Access
The present authors were given access to a large anonymized dataset from a commercial online gambling operator. In 2011, the online gambling operator decided to supplement their responsible gambling features and introduced a simple pop-up message that is triggered if their customers play 1,000 consecutive games (i.e., approximately 1 hour’s play) on slot machines during a single online gambling session. A gambling session is initiated when a player logs into their individual account and is terminated if the player logs out or closes their web-browser. The 1,000-game threshold was the gaming operator’s decision and the authors did not have any influence on when the pop-up message was initiated. The operator’s reason for choosing a threshold of 1,000 slot games was partly based on the findings of previous studies outlined in the introduction that playing 1,000 games takes approximately 1 h (i.e., Schellink and Schrans, 2002; Schrans et al., 2004; Ladouceur and Sevigny, 2009). From a technical perspective, it was also easier for the operator to track the number of games played by the gamblers rather than their overall playing time.
Details About the Pop-up Message
After the pop-up message has appeared on-screen, the player can then decide whether to stop or to continue the gambling session. The original (“simple”) pop-up message appeared in the center of the screen and simply informed the player that 1,000 games had been played and gave the player the option to continue or to stop gambling. The pop-up remained on the screen until the player pressed “yes” or “no” as to whether they wanted to continue gambling. If the player pressed “yes,” the pop-up message immediately disappeared. If the player pressed “no,” the game window immediately closed. The size of the pop-up was approximately one-eighth of the full screen.
In September 2013, the content of the pop-up message was further enhanced to include self-appraisal, normative feedback and text to address cognitive beliefs commonly found among gamblers, and a recommendation to enhance self-efficacy. The new pop-up message’s content was developed by the present authors, and was enhanced because a previous study (i.e., Auer et al., 2014) noted how limited and simplistic the original message was. The present study compared the adherence to the enhanced pop-up with the adherence to the original pop-up. In order to analyze the effect of the more recently introduced pop-up message, the authors accessed two representative random samples of 800,000 sessions 3 months before and 3 months after the new enhanced pop-up message was introduced. The total dataset comprised 1,600,000 game sessions that contained at least one slot game with approximately 70,000 online slot machine gamblers. The methodology is therefore quasi-experimental as it compares gambling behavior across two different time periods. Data collected in the present study took place between June 2013 and November 2013.
Details of (and Rationale for) the Enhanced Pop-up Message
The new pop-up message (translated from German, the native language used on the German-speaking site and the native language of one of the present authors) read: “We would like to inform you, that you have just played 1,000 slot games. Only a few people play more than 1,000 slot games. The chance of winning does not increase with the duration of the session. Taking a break often helps, and you can choose the duration of the break”. The reasoning behind the messaging is as follows:
- “We would like to inform you, that you have just played 1,000 slot games”: This part of the message objectively informs players about the behavior they engaged in.
- “Only a few people play more than 1,000 slot games”: This part of the message provides normative feedback that very few other gamblers play 1,000 consecutive slots games.
- “The chance of winning does not increase with the duration of the session”: This part of the message addresses a common misbelief among gamblers [i.e., the gamblers’ fallacy (Griffiths, 1994)].
- “Taking a break often helps, and you can choose the duration of the break”: This part of the message provides advice (to aid self-efficacy) and leaves the decision up to the player and is in line with the techniques of motivational interviewing (Miller and Rollnick, 1991).
Apart from the content of the message, nothing else in the pop-up was changed across the two conditions (e.g., size, location on the screen, etc.). A player has to press the “Spiel beenden” (“Close game”) button to exit the playing session. If the player presses the “OK” button, the pop-up disappears and the playing session continues. The “close game” link and the “OK” button were exactly the same in both conditions. This is important with respect to the interpretation of the results. All changes in effectiveness of the message in changing gamblers’ behavior can solely be traced back to changes in message content, as all other variables in the two playing conditions were identical. The study was given ethical approval by the research team’s University Ethics Committee.
Details of the Dataset and Analytic Strategy
The 800,000 sessions with the original pop-up message comprised 11,232 sessions where at least 1,000 consecutive slot games had been played (1.4% of the total sessions prior to the enhanced message being introduced). The 800,000 sessions with the new enhanced message comprised 11,878 sessions where at least 1,000 consecutive slot games had been played (1.48% of the total sessions after the enhanced message had been introduced). These figures demonstrate that the ratio of the most “highly involved” players was similar in both study conditions and increases the validity of the study. Given the low percentages of sessions that reached 1,000 consecutive plays on the online slot machine, high gaming intensity (i.e., high gambling involvement as defined by the number of consecutive games played) is relatively rare among the player base examined. The authors assumed that the threshold of playing more than 1,000 consecutive slot games per session reliably identified only the most highly involved gamblers. The effectiveness of the pop-up message in both conditions was determined by the number of sessions that terminated after playing 1,000 consecutive slot games. The design was between-subjects, however some (or perhaps even most) of the participants in the original pop-up message condition may have also been in the enhanced message condition as they were all clientele of the same gambling operator. The researchers were given access to two anonymized datasets, therefore it was not possible to calculate how many of the same players participated in both conditions.
Of the 11,232 sessions that lasted at least 1,000 consecutive slot games and received the original pop-up message, 75 sessions immediately terminated after the pop-up message was shown at the 1,000th consecutive game (0.67%). This behavior cessation was almost certainly due to the appearance of the pop-up message. Of the 11,787 sessions that lasted at least 1,000 consecutive slot games and received the enhanced pop-up message, 169 sessions immediately terminated after the pop-up was shown at the 1,000th game (1.39%).
This percentage of players stopping at 1,000 consecutive slot games was significantly higher than the percentage stopping as a consequence of the original pop-up message [χ2(1) = 31.51, p < 0.001]. However, large sample sizes often lead to significant results and are not necessarily meaningful. For this reason, the effect size was also calculated. With binary outcomes, the effect size can be derived from the Odds Ratio (OR; Chinn, 2000). The OR is computed from the chance of “success” in one group relative to the change of “success” in another group. Table 1 shows the number of players who ceased or continued to play in the pre- and post-condition. The OR is computed as follows: OR = if the cells of the contingency table are labeled in a clockwise manner. In this case, the OR was 2.13 = . Chinn (2000) reports that the natural logarithm of the OR can be converted to Cohen’s d (Cohen, 1992), a measure of effect size, by dividing it by 1.81. A Cohen’s d value of 0.42 results when applying the formula . Values between 0.2 and 0.5 are regarded as being small effect sizes (Cohen, 1992). The results therefore show there is an effect. However, the effect is modest.
Table 1. Contingency table showing the number of players who stopped after playing 1,000 consecutive games on an online slot machine during the pre-condition (original pop-up message) and post-condition (enhanced pop-up message).
The effect is further highlighted by Figure 1 that shows a clear visible spike that only appears when the pop-up message is shown (i.e., at the playing of 1,000 consecutive slot games). The x-axis range between sessions lasting 990 games to sessions lasting 1,010 games was chosen purely for visual presentation purposes. The selection of this range highlights the spike at exactly 1,000 games played, whereas the number of sessions ending at slightly less than 1,000 games or slightly more than 1,000 games is fairly similar. Figure 1 shows the effect of the pop-up is clearly visible, both before and after the message was changed. However, the effect is greater after the original (simple) pop-up message was changed to the enhanced one.
Figure 1. Number of sessions that lasted exactly 990 to 1,010 consecutive games on an online slot machine during the pre-condition (original pop-up message) and post-condition (enhanced pop-up message).
In the original pop-up message condition, the 75 sessions that immediately ceased after 1,000 consecutive slot games were produced by 71 different players (95%). This demonstrates that very few players reacted to the pop-up message more than once. In the enhanced pop-up message condition, the 169 sessions that immediately ceased after 1,000 consecutive slot games were produced by 139 different players (84%). This also demonstrates that few players reacted to the pop-up more than once. However, the percentage of players who stopped gambling after viewing the pop-up message more than once was higher in the enhanced pop-up message condition. This suggests that the enhanced pop-up message encouraged more players to make use of it more often compared to the original pop-up message.
On the other hand, results showed that 59 of the 71 different players (83%) that terminated their sessions before the pop-up was changed ignored the pop-up message at least once in another session and played more than 1,000 slot games within one session. After the pop-up was enhanced, the number of players that ignored the pop-up message at least once was 98 out of 139 (71%). The percentage of players that ignored the pop-up message was lower if informed by an enhanced pop-up compared to the purely informative pop-up message. This means that players that made use of the enhanced pop-up message were less likely to ignore it at other times compared to the purely informative pop-up message. This difference was significant [χ2(1) = 3.95, p < 0.05]. However, the OR was 1.18 (Cohen’s d effect size = 0.09), and is therefore negligible according to Cohen (1996).
The current study utilized an empirical sample of 1.6 million game sessions (comprising approximately 70,000 online slot machine gamblers) and provided ecologically reliable behavioral information on the effectiveness of pop-up messaging while gambling. Consequently, the data are truly objective and not subject to the recall bias effects of self-report methods or the lack of ecological validity in laboratory experiments. The effectiveness of two different types of pop-up message was examined and showed that enhanced pop-up messages led to 1.39% of highly involved gamblers immediately ceasing their gambling session compared to 0.67% of highly involved gamblers that only saw the simple pop-up messaging. As the two spikes in Figure 1 demonstrate, the cessation of the playing sessions was almost certainly due to viewing the pop-up message. The percentage of players that immediately terminated their sessions due to the viewing of the pop-up message doubled from 0.67 to 1.39% as a consequence of enhancing the message with self-appraisal, normative, and cognitive belief content (compared to self-appraisal only). All other aspects of the pop-up message were identical in the two conditions. This difference was not only statistically significant but also meaningful as demonstrated by the modest effect size.
It should be acknowledged that the current study is not a true experiment as the participants were not the same in the two conditions (however, it is likely there would be a large overlap as the data were collected from the same gaming company’s customer base within a short time period). The study would best be described as quasi-experimental in that a pre-condition was compared to a post-condition across different points in time. The present authors are not aware of any significant changes in the gambling operator’s environment during the 6 months of the research period. The percentage of sessions that lasted at least 1,000 consecutive slot games was roughly the same during the pre-condition and the post-condition period. In the original pop-up condition, only 1.4% of the 800,000 sessions (n = 11,232) lasted longer than 1,000 consecutive slot games. In the enhanced pop-up condition, only 1.48% of the 800,000 sessions (n = 11,878) lasted longer than 1,000 consecutive slot games. The similarity in percentages supports the claim of overall unchanged conditions, both before and after the pop-up was enhanced. If there was a significant difference in these percentages, one could question the validity of the study because important conditions (e.g., the nature of the games, promotional activity, playing behavior, etc.) could have changed.
All assumptions made by the present authors in a previously published study (i.e., Auer et al., 2014) also hold true for the present study because the follow-up study was conducted in the same real-world setting. Auer et al. (2014) concluded that the results they obtained appeared to show that the introduction of a mandatory pop-up message had a small effect in stopping gambling behavior among a small number of gamblers. In that study, nine times more gamblers ceased their gambling session following the viewing of a pop-up message after 1,000 consecutive gambles on an online slot machine game compared to those who had not viewed a pop-up message at all. In the present study, twice as many gamblers ceased to gamble when presented with an enhanced pop-up message compared to the simple pop-up message. This enhanced pop-up contained normative, self-appraisal, and cognitive-belief content as well as behavioral advice to aid self-efficacy. All these aspects have been argued to influence gambling behavior and enable behavioral change (Auer and Griffiths, 2014), but have never been tested in an empirical setting. To the authors’ knowledge, the changing and comparison of textual content in pop-up messaging has never previously been subject to empirical research.
To date, very few studies have been published that empirically investigate effectiveness of social responsibility tools in real world settings. This study adds to the sparse empirical base both generally and in relation to pop-up messaging more specifically. Previous research has often relied on self-report or experimental data, often in laboratory settings, to investigate the effects of pop-up messages on behavioral and/or cognitive processes such as belief patterns or dissociative states. Although such work is valid and important, laboratory study samples are typically much smaller than other methodologies (e.g., surveys, behavioral tracking studies) and behavioral results in laboratory situations can be distorted by the non-ecological validity of these artificial settings.
There are, of course, limitations to the data collected. Gainsbury and Blaszczynski (2011) suggested using both methodologies (i.e., laboratory and field) to test hypotheses. Therefore, caution should be taken in interpreting results when only one approach or methodology was used. The present authors did not have access to any other information about the samples (e.g., age, sex, income, ethnicity, levels of pathology) so it is not known if the groups in the two conditions differed on any key variables. Another important limitation to the present study was that it was cross-sectional and quasi-experimental in design. As such, the gamblers were not necessarily the same during the pre- and post- pop-up message intervention and this may be a significant limitation for interpretation of the results. However (as mentioned previously), there is no evidence to suggest that the most heavily involved gamblers before and after the change in pop-up messaging did not comprise many of the same people as these were all presumably regular gamblers on this particular website and the study’s data were collected over a relatively short time period (i.e., 6 months).
Although the message in the present study was enhanced with text based on psychological theory relating to behavior change, it cannot be determined which specific aspect(s) (i.e., normative, self-appraisal, cognitive-belief and/or information to aid self-efficacy) had the greatest effect in enabling the small behavioral change. The additional benefit may also be due to the fact that the enhanced message was simply much longer than the previous message text. It is also worth noting that the normative part of the pop-up message was a general statement (“Only a few people play more than a 1,000 games”). A much more specific statement may have had a more pronounced effect on the results. If the present study was replicated, it could perhaps include a second pop-up asking players to specifically indicate why they had stopped on seeing the enhanced pop-up (i.e., asking them which part or parts of the message were the most effective in determining cessation of play). Alternatively, an experimental study in which every different permutation is applied with more specific messages could be designed. Such an approach would also shed light on possible synergies and interactions between the different intervention strategies, much like the research of Wohl et al. (2013). However, the underlying study was conducted in a real-world gambling environment and ecological validity was therefore much higher than a laboratory study.
Overall, the data suggest that pop-up messages influence only a small number of gamblers to cease long playing sessions and that enhanced messages are slightly more effective in helping gamblers to stop playing in-session. It is the present authors’ contention that the most likely explanation for the doubling of sessions stopping in the enhanced feedback condition was due to the changed content of the pop-up message. Looking at the results, some may argue that the findings show that pop-up messages are ineffective in changing the behavior of a high-intensity gambler (as only 0.67 to 1.39% across the two conditions ceased gambling). However, the present authors take a more optimistic view in that pop-up messages are only one of a range of responsible gambling tools that are available, and that that the additive effect of such a feature when combined with other responsible gambling features available (e.g., time and money spending limits, self-exclusion options, etc.) is of use. Also, the often-said maxim of “even one problem gambler is one too many” suggests that pop-ups do help some gamblers—even if it is a very small minority.
Taking the more optimistic line about the results presented here, future studies should try to determine the specific impacts of different theoretical concepts such as normative beliefs, self-appraisal, and information that aids self-efficacy. Ultimately it will be gaming operators that implement responsible gaming initiatives. Real world studies such as the present one are an important way of determining the practical effectiveness of pop-up interventions. At present, several responsible gambling accreditation organizations (e.g., GamCare) mandatorily require pop-ups, and this is another reason to investigate their impact in real world environments. However, it has to be emphasized that real world studies are accompanied with specific strengths as well as specific weaknesses. The main strength is the high external validity, because the intervention occurred in a real world setting and the study participants were real players. On the other hand, external factors cannot be controlled in the same manner as in laboratory-based studies. Overall, the findings presented here provide a potentially important insight into the effectiveness (or non-effectiveness depending upon viewpoint) of pop-up messaging as a responsible gambling intervention for gaming operators around the world that provide screen-based games.
Conflict of Interest Statement
The authors declare that the research was conducted in the absence of any commercial or financial relationships that could be construed as a potential conflict of interest.
- ^ One of the previous reviewers noted that the enhanced message as it was worded may have given the gambler the impression that taking a break from gambling would help increase the chances of winning. While this is theoretically possible, the authors think this is highly unlikely that the gamblers would have thought this given the content of the message as a whole, and because the message was in German rather than the English translation provided in this paper.
Ajzen, I. (1985). “From intentions to action: a theory of planned behavior,” in Action Control: From Cognitions to Behaviors, eds J. Kuhl and J. Beckman (New York, NY: Springer), 11–39.
Auer, M., and Griffiths, M. D. (2013). Voluntary limit setting and player choice in most in-tense online gamblers: an empirical study of gambling behaviour. J. Gambl. Stud. 29, 647–660. doi: 10.1007/s10899-012-9332-y
PubMed Abstract | Full Text | CrossRef Full Text | Google Scholar
Auer, M., and Griffiths, M. D. (2014). Personalised feedback in the promotion of responsible gambling: a brief overview. Responsib. Gambl. Rev. 1, 27–36.
Auer, M., Malischnig, D., and Griffiths, M. D. (2014). Is ‘pop-up’ messaging in online slot machine gambling effective as a responsible gambling strategy? An empirical re-search note. J. Gambl. Issues 29, 1–10. doi: 10.4309/jgi.2014.29.3
CrossRef Full Text | Google Scholar
Becker, J., Haug, S., Sullivan, R., and Schaub, M. P. (2014). Effectiveness of different web-based interventions to prepare co-smokers of cigarettes and cannabis for double cessation: a three-arm randomized controlled trial. J. Med. Internet Res. 16, e273. doi: 10.2196/JMIR.3246
PubMed Abstract | Full Text | CrossRef Full Text | Google Scholar
Celio, M. A., and Lisman, S. A. (2014). Examining the efficacy of a personalized normative feedback intervention to reduce college student gambling. J. Am. Coll. Health 62, 154–164. doi: 10.1080/07448481.2013.865626
PubMed Abstract | Full Text | CrossRef Full Text | Google Scholar
Chinn, S. (2000). A simple method for converting odds ratio into effect size for use in meta-analysis. Stat. Med. 19, 3127–3131. doi: 10.1002/1097-0258(20001130)19:22<3127::AID-SIM784>3.0.CO;2-M
PubMed Abstract | Full Text | CrossRef Full Text | Google Scholar
Cohen, J. (1992). Statistical Power Analysis for the Behavioral Sciences, 2nd Edn. Hillsdale. NJ: Erlbaum
Donovan, R., and Henley, N. (2010). Principles and Practice of Social Marketing: An International Perspective. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Gallagher, T., Nicki, R., Otteson, A., and Elliot, H. (2011). Effects of a video lottery terminal (VLT) banner on gambling: a field study. Int. J. Ment. Health Addict. 9, 126–133. doi: 10.1007/s11469-009-9259-4
CrossRef Full Text | Google Scholar
Gilberts, G., Agran, M., Hughes, C., and Wehmeyer, M. (2001). The effects of peer-reviewed self-monitoring strategies on the participation of students with severe disabilities in general education classrooms. J. Assoc. Pers. Sev. Handicaps 26, 25–36. doi: 10.2511/rpsd.26.1.25
CrossRef Full Text | Google Scholar
Griffiths, M. D. (1994). The role of cognitive bias and skill in fruit machine gambling. Br. J. Psychol. 85, 351–369. doi: 10.1111/j.2044-8295.1994.tb02529.x
CrossRef Full Text | Google Scholar
Griffiths, M. D. (2012). “Internet gambling, player protection and social responsibility,” in Routledge Handbook of Internet Gambling, eds R. Williams, R. Wood, and J. Parke (London: Routledge), 227–249.
Griffiths, M. D., Wood, R. T. A., and Parke, J. (2009). Social responsibility tools in online gambling: a survey of attitudes and behaviour among Internet gamblers. Cyberpsychol. Behav. 12, 413–421. doi: 10.1089/cpb.2009.0062
PubMed Abstract | Full Text | CrossRef Full Text | Google Scholar
Hardeman, W., Johnston, M., Johnston, D., Bonetti, D., Wareham, N., and Kinmoth, A. (2002). Applications of theory of planned behaviour in behaviour change interventions: a systematic review. Psychol. Health 17, 123–158. doi: 10.1080/08870440290013644a
CrossRef Full Text | Google Scholar
Kim, H. S., Wohl, M. J., Stewart, M. K., Sztainert, T., and Gainsbury, S. M. (2014). Limit your time, gamble responsibly: setting a time limit (via pop-up message) on an electronic gaming machine reduces time on device. Int. Gambl. Stud. 14, 266–278. doi: 10.1080/14459795.2014.910244
CrossRef Full Text | Google Scholar
Ladouceur, R., and Sevigny, S. (2009). Electronic gaming machines: influence of a clock, a cash display, and a precommitment on gambling time. J. Gambl. Issues 23, 31–41. doi: 10.4309/jgi.2009.23.2
Prostitution in Germany is legal, as are all aspects of the sex industry, including brothels, advertisement, and job offers through HR companies. Full service sex work is widespread and regulated by the German government, which levies taxes on it. In 2002, the government changed the law in an effort to improve the legal situation of sex workers. However, the social stigmatization of sex work persists and many workers continue to lead a double life. Human rights organizations consider the resulting common exploitation of women from Eastern and Southeastern Europe to be the main problem associated with the profession.
Middle Ages to Confederation (1815)
Sex work in historically German lands has never been outlawed and has been described since the middle ages. Since the 13th century, several German cities operated brothels known as Frauenhäuser ("women's houses");  the practice of sex work was considered a necessary evil, a position already held by Saint Augustine (354-430). Some municipalities actively encouraged it and far from existing on the margins, sex workers were often honoured guests, who maintained domestic order as an outlet and lesser evil to such things as adultery and rape. The city also gained from the tax revenues from the prostitutes.
Emperor Sigismund (1368–1437) thanked the city of Konstanz in writing for providing some 1,500 workers for the Council of Constance which took place from 1414 to 1418.
Sex workers were more vigorously persecuted beginning in the 16th century, with the start of the Reformation and the appearance of syphilis. In 1530, Charles V ordered the closure of brothels throughout the German Holy Roman Empire.
Section 999 of the 1794 General State Laws for the Prussian States determined that "dissolute female persons who want to do business with their bodies ... would have to go into the whoredom houses tolerated under the supervision of the state".
The Confederations (1815-1871)
Beginning in the 19th century, sex workers in many regions had to register with police or local health authorities and submit to regular health checks to curb venereal diseases.
The so-called Bremer Regulations of 1852 stated that prostitution was "not a trade in the true sense". By this distinction between prostitution and other trades, immorality of prostitution was defined in law.
German Empire (1871-1918)
In Imperial Germany (1871–1918) attitudes to sex work was ambivalent. While sex work was tolerated as a necessary function to provide for male sexuality outside of marriage, it was frowned on as a threat to contemporary moral images of women's sexuality. Therefore, state policy concentrated on regulation rather than abolition. This was mainly at the municipal level. The Criminal Code of 1871 prohibited brothels and "commercial fornication". In the 1876 version, however, was only punishable if a woman prostituted outside police supervision. The state regulation at the same time created an atmosphere which at the same time defined what was considered proper, and proper feminine sexuality.
Controls were particularly tight in the port city of Hamburg. The regulations included defining the dress and conduct both inside and outside of brothels, of prostitutes. Thus their occupation defined their lives as a separate class of women, on the margins of society.
At the beginning of the 20th century, prostitution was considered "harmful to communities". Nevertheless there existed or originated in the 20th century, various brothel and red-light districts such as Helenenstraße in Bremen (from 1878), Linienstraße in Dortmund (from 1904), Stahlstraße in Essen (from about 1900), Rampenloch in Minden (from 1908), Im Winkel in Bochum (from about 1912), and the Flaßhofstraße in Oberhausen (from 1910 and 1963). It is estimated that in 1900 there were 50,000 women working in Berlin.
In Weimar era Germany the economy collapsed due to the loss of the First World War and the imposition of War Reparations at the Treaty of Versailles, as a result. the middle class lost their savings and the working class were unemployed. The Republic ended up printing money to pay its bills which lead to hyperinflation in 1923. The outcome of all of this was women, including the millions of war widows, turned to prostitution. Licentiousness and streetwalkers was common in this period and Weimar Berlin is famed for its decadence.
An STD Act was discussed and adopted in 1927, it was accompanied by decriminalisation of prostitution.
Third Reich (1933-1945)
During the Nazi era, street based sex workers were seen as "asocial" and degenerate and were often sent to concentration camps, especially to the Ravensbrück camp. The Nazis did not entirely disapprove of sex work though and instead installed a centralized system of city brothels, military brothels (Wehrmachtsbordelle), brothels for foreign forced laborers, and concentration camp brothels.
During the Second World War, the German Wehrmacht established about 100 Wehrmacht brothels in the occupied territories, including France, Poland, Italy and Norway. Lothar-Günther Buchheim described his impressions from Brest: "If a large ship had arrived, the hookers simply laid there between sailors." Military prostitution was regulated, "Only a permit from the military command brothel allowed to you visit. Always use a condom (rubber protection). For the German soldiers there was a disinfectant syringe in the urethra."
Between 1942 and 1945, camp brothels were installed in ten concentration camps, including Auschwitz. Himmler intended these as an incentive for cooperative and hard-working non-Jewish and non-Russian inmates, in order to increase productivity of the work camps. Initially the brothels were staffed mostly with former sex worker inmates who volunteered, but women were also put under pressure to work there. In the documentary film, Memory of the Camps, a project supervised by the British Ministry of Information and the American Office of War Information during the summer of 1945, camera crews filmed women who stated that they were forced into sexual slavery for the use of guards and favored prisoners. The film makers stated that as the women died they were replaced by women from the concentration camp Ravensbrück.
None of the women who were forced to work in these concentration camp brothels ever received compensation, since the German compensation laws do not cover persons designated as "asocial" by the Nazis.
In a famous case of espionage, the Nazi intelligence service SD took over the luxurious Berlin brothel Salon Kitty and equipped it with listening devices and specially trained sex workers. From 1939 to 1942 the brothel was used to spy on important visitors.
German Democratic Republic (GDR 1945–1990)
Main article: Prostitution in the German Democratic Republic
After World War II, the country was divided into East Germany and West Germany. In East Germany, as in all countries of the communist Eastern Bloc, full service sex work was illegal and according to the official position it didn't exist. However, there were high-class sex workers working in the hotels of East Berlin and the other major cities, mainly targeting Western visitors; the Stasi employed some of these for spying purposes. Street based workers and female taxi drivers were available for the pleasure of visiting Westerners, too.
Federal Republic of Germany (BRD 1945–2001)
In West Germany, the registration and testing requirements remained in place but were handled quite differently in the various regions of the country. In Bavaria, in addition to scheduled STD check-ups, regular HIV tests were required since 1987, but this was an exception. Many sex workers did not submit to these tests, avoiding the registration. A study in 1992 found that only 2.5% of the tested workers had a disease, a rate much lower than the one among comparable non-sex workers.
In 1967, Europe's largest brothel at the time, the six-floor Eros Center, was opened on the Reeperbahn in Hamburg. An even larger one, the twelve-floor building now called Pascha in Cologne was opened in 1972. The AIDS scare of the late 1980s was bad for business, and the Eros Center as well as several other brothels in Hamburg had to close. The Pascha continued to flourish however, and now has evolved into a chain with additional brothels in Munich and Salzburg.
Anything done in the "promotion of prostitution" (Förderung der Prostitution) remained a crime until 2001, even after the extensive criminal law reforms of 1973. This put the operators of brothels in constant legal danger. Most brothels were therefore run as a bar with an attached but legally separate room rental. However, many municipalities built, ran and profited from high rise or townhouse-style high-rent Dirnenwohnheime (lit.: "whores' dormitories"), to keep street based sex work and pimping under control. Here workers sell sex in a room that they rent by the day. These establishments, called "Laufhäuser" in Johns' jargon are now mostly privatized and operate as Eros Centers. Even before the 2001 reform, many upmarket sex workers operated in their own apartments, alone or with other women. Luxurious country houses, called "FKK-Sauna-Clubs" are the top end of the scale. There, women and men pay the same entrance fees that range from about 50 to 100 euro and usually include meals and drinks and the sex workers negotiate their deals with the clients individually, thus avoiding the appearance of pimping ("Zuhälterei"). Illegal variations on that business model, like "Flaterate-Clubs" and "Pauschalclubs" also exist and advertise openly in daily newspapers and the Internet. These establishments charge an "all-you-can handle" fee of about 75 to 90 euro.
Before the 2002 prostitution law, the highest courts of Germany repeatedly ruled that sex work offends good moral order (verstößt gegen die guten Sitten), with several legal consequences. Any contract that is considered immoral is null and void, so a sex worker could not sue for payment. Sex workers working out of their apartments could lose their leases. Finally, bars and inns could be denied a licences if sex work took place on their premises.
In 1999, Felicitas Weigmann lost the licence for her Berlin cafe Psst!, because the cafe was being used to initiate contacts between customers and sex work and had an attached room-rental also owned by Weigmann. She sued the city, arguing that society's position had changed and sex work no longer qualified as offending the moral order. The judge conducted an extensive investigation and solicited a large number of opinions. In December 2000 the court agreed with Weigmann’s claim. This ruling is considered as precedent and important factor in the realization of the Prostitution Law of 1 January 2002. Only after an appeal process though, filed by the Berlin town district, was Weigmann to regain her café license in October 2002.
The compulsory registration and testing of workers was abandoned in 2001. Anonymous, free and voluntary health testing has been made available to everyone, including illegal immigrants. Many brothel operators require these tests.
Legislative reform (2002)
In 2002 a one-page law sponsored by the Green Party was passed by the ruling coalition of Social Democrats and Greens in the Bundestag. The law removed the general prohibition on furthering full service sex work and allowed sex workers to obtain regular work contracts. The law's rationale stated that sex work should not be considered as immoral anymore.
The law has been criticized as having not effectively changed the situation of the sex workers, believed to be because the some workers themselves don't want to change their working conditions and contracts. The German government issued a report on the law's impact in January 2007, concluding that few sex workers had taken advantage of regular work contracts and that work conditions had improved only slightly, if at all.
Between 2000 and 2003, the visa issuing policies of German consulates were liberalized. The opposition claimed that this resulted in an increase in human trafficking and sex workers entering the country illegally, especially from Ukraine. The episode led to hearings in 2005 and is known as the German Visa Affair 2005.
In 2004 the Turkish gang leader Necati Arabaci was sentenced to 9 years in prison for pimping, human trafficking, assault, extortion, weapons violations and racketeering. His gang of bouncers controlled the night clubs in Cologne's entertainment district, the Ring, where they befriended girls in order to exploit them as sex workers. After Arabaci's arrest, informants overheard threats against the responsible prosecutor, who received police protection and fled the country in 2007 when Arabaci was deported to Turkey.
In 2004, the large FKK-brothel Colosseum opened in Augsburg, and police suspected a connection to Arabaci's gang, which owned several similar establishments and was supposedly directed from prison by its convicted leader. After several raids, police determined that the managers of the brothel dictated the prices that the women had to charge, prohibited them from sitting in groups or using cell phones during work, set the work hours, searched rooms and handbags, and made them work completely nude (charging a penalty of 10 euros per infraction). In April 2006, five men were charged with pimping. The court quashed the charges, arguing that the prostitution law of 2002 created a regular employer-employee relationship and thus gave the employer certain rights to direct the working conditions. Colosseum remained in business.
Early in 2005, English media reported that a woman refusing to take a job as a sex worker might have her unemployment benefits reduced or removed altogether. A similar story had appeared in mid-2003; a woman received a job offer through a private employment agency. In this case however, the agency apologized for the mistake, stating that a request for a sex worker would normally have been rejected, but the client misled them, describing the position as "a female barkeeper." To date, there have been no reported cases of women actually losing benefits in such a case, and the employment agencies have stated that women would not be made to work in sex work.
In March 2007 the brothel "Pascha" in Cologne announced that senior citizens above the age of 66 would receive a discount during afternoons; half of the price of 50 euros for a "normal session" would be covered by the house. Earlier, in 2004, a 20% discount for long-term unemployed had been announced by a brothel in Dresden.
Also in 2007, authorities in Berlin began to close several apartment brothels that had existed for years. They cited a 1983 court decision that found that the inevitable disturbances caused by brothels were incompatible with residential areas. Sex workers' rights groups and brothel owners fought these efforts. They commissioned a study that concluded that apartment brothels in general neither promote criminality nor disturb neighbors.
The economic downturn of 2009 has resulted in changes at some brothels. Reduced prices and free promotions are now found. Some changes, the result of modern marketing tools, rebates, gimmicks. Brothels introducing all-inclusive flat-rates, free shuttle buses, discounts for seniors and taxi drivers. "Day passes." Some brothels reportedly including loyalty cards, group sex parties, rebates for golf players. Clients have reported reducing their number of weekly visits.
In 2009, the Bundessozialgericht ruled that the German job agencies are not required to find sex workers for open positions in brothels. The court rejected the complaint of a brothel owner who had argued that the law of 2002 had turned sex work into a job like any other; the judges ruled that the law had been passed to protect the employees, not to further the business.
The effects of the reforms continue to be debated. A five-part series in Der Spiegel in 2013 claimed it was a failure. Others have argued that, while the German model still has many weaknesses, it has reduced violence against sex workers.
The Criminal Code was amended in October 2016 to criminalise clients of trafficked or coerced prostitutes. This change was led by Social Democrat Eva Högl.
The Prostituiertenschutzgesetz (Prostitutes Protection Act) came into force in July 2017. Amongst the provision of the Act are registration of prostitutes, annual health checks and mandatory condom use. Brothel operators also need to register and prove their 'good conduct' before registration. The legislation also places restrictions on advertising.
Officials speculated that up to 40,000 illegal sex workers, mainly from Eastern European countries, would enter Germany for the Football World Cup, held in Germany in the summer of 2006. Women and church groups were planning a "Red card to forced prostitution" campaign with the aim of alerting World Cup visitors to the existence of forced sex trafficking. They asked for support from the national football team and the national football organization but were initially rebuffed. In March 2006 the president of the German football federation turned around and agreed to support a campaign named "Final Whistle – Stop Forced Prostitution". The Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE), the Nordic Council and Amnesty International also expressed concern over an increase in the trafficking of women and forced sex trafficking up to and during the World Cup.
In March 2006 the campaign "Responsible John. Prostitution without compulsion and violence" was started by the government of Berlin. It provides a list of signs of forced sex trafficking and urges sex workers' customers to call a hotline if they spot one of those signs.
In April 2006, an advertisement for the Pascha brothel in Cologne that featured a several story image of a half-naked woman with the flags of 2006 FIFA World Cup countries sparked outrage after Muslims were offended by the inclusion of the Saudi Arabian and Iranian flags. The Pascha brothel's owner, Armin Lobscheid, said a group of Muslims had threatened violence over the advertisement, and he blacked out the two flags. However, the Tunisian flag that features the Muslim crescent remained on the advertisement.
On 30 June 2006, the New York Times reported that the expected increase in prostitution activity around the World Cup had not taken place. This was confirmed by the 2006 BKA report on human trafficking, which reported only 5 cases of human trafficking related to the World Cup.
Extent of prostitution and associated issues
Studies in the early 1990s estimated that about 50,000–200,000 women and some men did sex work in Germany. The International Encyclopedia of Sexuality, published in 1997, reported that over 100,000 women work in prostitution in Germany. A 2005 study gave 200,000 as a "halfway realistic estimate". The prostitutes' organization Hydra puts the number at 400,000, and this number is typically quoted in the press today. A 2009 study by TAMPEP also gave the Hydra estimate of 400,000 full or part-time prostitutes, with 93% being cisgender female, 3% transgender and 4% cisgender male.
The same study found that 63% of the sex workers in Germany were foreigners, with two thirds of them coming from Central and Eastern Europe. In 1999 the proportion of foreign sex workers had been 52%. The increase was attributed to the EU enlargement.
From other studies, it is estimated that between 10% and 30% of the male adult population have had experiences with sex workers. Of those 17-year-old males in West Germany with experience of intercourse, 8% have had sex with a sex worker.
A 2009 survey identified the following main vulnerability factors for German sex workers (in the order of importance):
- Financial problems, including debts and poverty.
- Violence and abuse by police, clients and pimps.
- No professional identity; lack of self-confidence.
- Stigma and discrimination.
- Exploitative personal dependencies.
Forms of female prostitution
Street prostitution (Straßenstrich)
Regular street based sex work is often quite well organized and controlled by pimps. Most cities however established "Sperrbezirke" (off-limits zones) and charge the street based workers an amusement tax, that in the city of Bonn for instance is paid by the sex workers at parking meters, six euro for a period of about eight night hours. The same fee is collected from sex workers in apartments and brothels, sometimes by municipal tax collectors in person. Some sex workers have a nearby caravan, others use the customer's car, still others use hotel rooms. With recent economic problems, in some large cities "wild" street based sex work has started to appear: areas where women work temporarily out of short-term financial need. A "sex drive-in", or "Verrichtungsbox", is a facility of structures to enclose cars to provide a safer place for sex work using cars.
Prostitution for the procurement of narcotics
In every major German city there are prostitutes who offer their services to procure drugs. This often takes place near the main railway stations, while the act usually takes place in the customer's car or in a nearby rented room. These prostitutes are the most desperate, often underage, and their services are generally the cheapest. Pimps and brothel owners try to avoid drug-addicted prostitutes, as they are inclined to spend their earnings solely or primarily on drugs. Other prostitutes tend to look down on them as well, because they are considered as lowering the market prices.
In a unique effort to move drug-addicted streetwalkers out of the city center and reduce violence against these women, the city of Cologne in 2001 created a special area for tolerated street prostitution in Geestemünder Straße. Dealers and pimps are not tolerated, the parking places have alarm buttons and the women are provided with a cafeteria, showers, clean needles and counselling. The project, modelled on the Dutch tippelzones, is supervised by an organisation of Catholic women. A positive scientific evaluation was published in 2004.
In bars, women try to induce men to buy expensive drinks along with the sexual services. Sex usually takes place in a separate but attached building. Prices are mostly set by the bar owner and the money is shared between the owner and the prostitute.
Eros centers (Bordell, Laufhaus)
An eros center is a house or street (Laufstraße) where women can rent small one-room apartments for 80–150 euro per day. Then they solicit customers from the open door or from behind a window. Prices are normally set by the prostitutes; they start at 25–50 euros for short-time sex. The money is not shared with the brothel owner. Security and meals are provided by the owner. The women may even live in their rooms, but most do not. Minors and women not working in the eros center are not allowed to enter. Eros centers exist in almost all larger German cities. The most famous is the Herbertstraße near the Reeperbahn in Hamburg. The largest brothel in Europe is the eros center Pascha in Cologne, a 12-storey building with some 120 rooms for rent and several bars.
Brothels of all kinds advertise for sex workers in the weekly female-orientated magazine Heim und Welt.
Apartment prostitution (Wohnungspuffs)
There are many of these advertised in the daily newspapers. Sometimes run by a single woman, sometimes by a group of roommates and sometimes as safehouses for traffickers, with the women being moved around on a weekly basis.
Some massage parlors offer sexual services, though this is far less common than in the U.S.
Partytreffs and Pauschalclubs
These are a variation on partner-swapping swing clubs with (sometimes, but not always) paid prostitutes in attendance, as well as 'amateur' women and couples. Single men pay a flat-rate entrance charge of about 80 to 150 euros, which includes food, drink and unlimited sex sessions, with the added twist that these are performed in the open in full view of all the guests. Women normally pay a low or zero entrance charge.
FKK clubs or Sauna clubs
Typically, these are houses or large buildings, often with swimming pool and sauna, a large 'meet and greet' room with bar and buffet on the ground floor, TV/video screens, and bedrooms on the upper floor(s). Operating hours are usually from late morning until after midnight. Women are typically nude or topless, men may wear robes or towels. Men and women often pay the same entrance fee, from 35 to 70 euros, including use of all facilities, food and drinks (soft drinks and beer, most FKKs do not allow liquor). Some clubs will admit couples. This form of prostitution, which was mentioned in the rationale of the 2002 prostitution law as providing good working conditions for the women, exists all over Germany and parts of the Netherlands, but mainly in the Rhein-Ruhrgebiet and in the area around Frankfurt am Main. Among the largest clubs of this type are: Artemis in Berlin, opened in the fall of 2005, the new Harem in Bad Lippspringe and the long established FKK World near Giessen and FKK Oase in the countryside near Bad Homburg.
Escort services (Begleitagenturen)
Escort services, where the customer calls to have a woman meet him at home or at a hotel for sexual services, exist in Germany as well, but are not nearly as prevalent as in the US.
For special groups
Sexual services for the disabled and elderly. The agency Sensis in Wiesbaden connects prostitutes with disabled customers. Nina de Vries somewhat controversially provides sexual services to severely mentally disabled men and has been repeatedly covered in the media. Professional training is available for 'sex assistants'.
Forms of male prostitution
A comparatively small number of males offer sexual services to females, usually in the form of escort services, meeting in hotels. The vast majority of male prostitutes serve male clients. In 2007 it was estimated that there were 2,500 male prostitutes in Berlin. The above-mentioned Pascha brothel in Cologne reserves one entire floor for male and transgender prostitutes.
Prostitution is legal in Germany. Prostitutes may work as regular employees with contract, though the vast majority work independently. Brothels are registered businesses that need a special brothel licence; if food and alcoholic drinks are offered, the standard restaurant licence is also required.
Prostitutes have to pay income taxes and have to charge VAT for their services, to be paid to the tax office. In practice, prostitution is a cash business and taxes are not always paid, though enforcement has recently been strengthened. The LänderNorth Rhine-Westphalia, Baden Württemberg and Berlin have initiated a system where prostitutes have to pay their taxes in advance, a set amount per day, to be collected and paid to tax authorities by the brothel owners. North Rhine-Westphalia charges 25 euros per day per prostitute, while Berlin charges 30 euros. In May 2007 authorities were considering plans for a uniform country-wide system charging 25 euros per day.
Until 2002, prostitutes and brothels were technically not allowed to advertise, but that prohibition was not enforced. The Bundesgerichtshof ruled in July 2006 that, as a consequence of the new prostitution law, advertising of sexual services is no longer illegal. Before the law and still now, many newspapers carry daily ads for brothels and for women working out of apartments. Many prostitutes and brothels have websites on the Internet. In addition, sex shops and newsstands sell magazines specialising in advertisements of prostitutes ("Happy Weekend", "St Pauli Nachrichten", "Sexy" and many more).
Foreign women from European Union countries are allowed to work as prostitutes in Germany. Women from other countries can obtain three-month tourist visas for Germany. If they work in prostitution, it is illegal, because the tourist visa does not include a work permit.
Pimping, (Zuhälterei = exploiting and/or controlling a sex worker) admitting prostitutes under the age of eighteen to a brothel, and influencing persons under the age of twenty-one to take up or continue work in prostitution, are illegal. It is also illegal to contract sex services from any person younger than 18, per Article 182 (paragraph 2) of the Criminal Code. (Before 2008 this age limit was 16.) This law also applies to Germans traveling abroad, to combat child prostitution occurring in the context of sex tourism.
The first city in Germany to introduce an explicit prostitution tax was Cologne. The tax was initiated early in 2004 by the city council led by a coalition of the conservative CDU and the leftist Greens. This tax applies to striptease, peep shows, porn cinemas, sex fairs, massage parlors, and prostitution. In the case of prostitution, the tax amounts to 150 euros per month and working prostitute, to be paid by brothel owners or by privately working prostitutes. (The area Geestemünder Straße mentioned above is exempt.) Containment of prostitution was one explicitly stated goal of the tax. In 2006 the city took in 828,000 euros through this tax. The neighboring city of Bonn collects a nightly sex work tax of six euro from street prostitutes in the Immenburgstrasse by vending machines identical to German parking meters. All other areas of the city are Sperrbezirk (off-limits for street prostitution).
Every city has the right to zone off certain areas where prostitution is not allowed (Sperrbezirk). Prostitutes found working in these areas can be fined or, when persistent, jailed. The various cities handle this very differently. In Berlin prostitution is allowed everywhere, and Hamburg allows street prostitution near the Reeperbahn during certain times of the day. Almost the entire center of Munich is Sperrbezirk, and under-cover police have posed as clients to arrest prostitutes. In Leipzig, street prostitution is forbidden almost everywhere, and the city even has a local law allowing police to fine customers who solicit prostitution in public. In most smaller cities, the Sperrbezirk includes the immediate city center as well as residential areas. Several states prohibit brothels in small towns (such as towns with fewer than 35,000 inhabitants).
This concept has been the subject of a number of legal challenges. In North Rhine-Westphalia a Minden court has ruled against 'Sperrbezirk', as have courts in Hesse and Bavaria. The court ruled that a general prohibition of prostitution infringed a basic right to choose one's occupation, as laid down in the 2002 Prostitution Act.
Annual health checks for prostitutes are mandated by law in Germany. Previously, in Bavaria (Bayern), law mandates the use of condoms for sexual intercourse with prostitutes, including oral contact. In 2017 this was extended to the whole of Germany.
The 1957 murder of the high-class prostitute Rosemarie Nitribitt in Frankfurt drew great media attention in postwar Germany. The circumstances of her death remain obscure. Police investigations turned up no substantial leads other than a prime suspect who was later acquitted due to reasonable doubt. Several high-profile, respectable citizens turned out to have been among her customers, a fact on which the media based insinuations that higher social circles might be covering up and obstructing the search for the real murderer. The scandal inspired two movies.
Werner Pinzner was a contract murderer active in the brothel scene of Hamburg in the 1980s. Captured in 1986, he confessed to eight murders of people involved in prostitution businesses. His long-time female lawyer and his wife conspired to smuggle a gun into the Hamburg police headquarters on 29 July 1986, and Pinzner proceeded to kill the attending prosecutor, his wife and himself. The lawyer was sentenced to six years in prison for aiding in murder.
Six persons were murdered in a brothel in Frankfurt am Main in 1994. The Hungarian couple managing the place as well as four Russian prostitutes were strangled with electric cables. The case was resolved soon after: it was a robbery gone bad, carried out by the husband of a woman who had worked there.
In 2012 it was reported that police were investigating the owners of a number of high-class brothels in Düsseldorf. Allegedly, numerous customers had been incapacitated with date rape drugs or other drugs in order to charge exorbitant amounts to their credit cards; those who complained were blackmailed with video footage.
According to Klaus Bayerl, head of the Kriminalpolizei Augsburg, the large brothels created since 2002 are facilities in which official directors are irreproachable persons, while the background, the brothels are run by pimps or criminal gangs and almost always have close ties to organised crime.
Competing for supremacy in the red-light districts include several Outlaw Motorcycle gangs. Again and again there were massive clashes between the Bandidos and the Hells Angels. Both associations are known arms and drug traffickers and promotors of prostitution.
Involved in the fight for control of the red-light districts are the Black Jackets. In 2013, the Lustpark brothel in Neu-Ulm was being used as a weapons warehouse by the Black Jackets. It became known in 2012 that the Dutch gang Satudarah MC were active in Germany. Satudarah is deeply involved in prostitution, drug trafficking and violent crime.
Likewise, the bouncer GangUnited Tribuns are involved in the power struggle. The bouncer scene is considered a key position also in recruiting new prostitutes. Other organisations involved in prostitution and trafficking include the Gremium MC, Outlaws MC, the Red Legion, and the Rock Machine MC, whose members are involved in the dispute with the brothel Murat C. in Neu-Ulm in December 2012 when someone was shot.
One of the leading figures in the scene is the German-Turkish Necati Arabaci. He is involved, inter alia, in the brothels Babylon in Elsdorf near Cologne and Wiago in Leverkusen, and also in brothels in Augsburg and Mallorca among others. In 2013 the Augsburg prosecutor established suspicion of money laundering against a person connected to the Hells Angels in the large Colosseum brothel in Augsburg.
The Hanoverian Frank Hanebuth was arrested in July 2013 in Mallorca, Spain, along with 20 other Hells Angels members. As head of the Hells Angels Spanish chapter, he is accused of forming a criminal organisation, promoting illegal prostitution, drug trafficking and money laundering. Hanebuth had acquired several Spanish brothels and is also involved in the mistreatment of prostitutes.
André Schulz, head of the German Criminal Investigation Association warned in July 2016 of "an escalation of turf wars between enemy biker gangs in Germany".
See also: Human trafficking in Germany
Illegal human trafficking is a major focus of police work in Germany, yet it remains prevalent. In 2007, Germany was listed by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime as a top destination for victims of human trafficking.
In 2009, 710 victims of trafficking for the purpose of sexual exploitation were discovered, an increase of 5% in comparison with 2008.
In 2008, authorities identified 676 sex-trafficking victims.
In 2007, law enforcement authorities recorded 689 victims trafficked for sexual exploitation. Most victims (419) were between the ages of 18 and 24; 184 were nationals of the country. Approximately 12 percent were under the age of 18, including 39 citizens. One percent (seven) were under 14 years of age.
The trafficking in women from Eastern Europe is often organized by perpetrators from that same region. The German Federal Police Office BKA reported in 2006 a total of 357 completed investigations of human trafficking, with 775 victims. Thirty-five percent of the suspects were Germans born in Germany and 8% were German citizens born outside of Germany.
According to the report, in 2006 about 35% of the victims of human trafficking reported that they had agreed from the beginning to work in prostitution; often they did not know about the working conditions and debts incurred. Some others hoped for a job as waitress, maid or au pair; some were simply abducted. Once in Germany, their passports are sometimes taken away and they are informed that they now have to work off the cost of the trip. Sometimes they are brokered to pimps or brothel operators, who then make them work off the purchase price. They work in brothels, bars, apartments; as streetwalkers or as escorts and have to hand over the better part of their earnings. Some women reconcile themselves with this situation as they still make much more money than they could at home; others rebel and are threatened or abused. They are, reportedly, sometimes told that the police have been paid off and will not help them, which is false. They are, reportedly, also threatened with harm to their families at home.
The report states that victims are often unwilling to testify against their oppressors: the only incentive they have to do so is the permission to remain in the country until the end of the trial (with the hope of finding a husband during that time), rather than being deported immediately. Prostitutes from EU countries are not prohibited from traveling to and working in Germany. There is a large influx from Poland, Czech Republic, Bulgaria and Romania, for instance. Actually the income prospects for them are not larger than at home, but they prefer to work in the better and safer German environment, as long as they can avoid pimps exploiting and controlling them. German law enforcement aggressively tries to eradicate pimping. In one raid in 2013 near Bonn, 24 males were arrested for exploiting prostitutes, one of them just 15 years old.
Scandals and news coverage
In 2003, German CDU politician Michel Friedman, popular TV talk show host and then assistant chairman of the Central Council of Jews in Germany, became embroiled in an investigation of trafficking women. He had been a client of several escort prostitutes from Eastern Europe who testified that he had repeatedly taken and offered cocaine. After receiving a fine for the drug charge, he resigned from all posts. Since 2004 he has been hosting a weekly talk show on the TV channel N24.
Also in 2003, well-known artist and art professor Jörg Immendorff was caught in the luxury suite of a Düsseldorf hotel with seven prostitutes (and four more on their way) and some cocaine. He admitted to having staged several such orgies and received 11 months on probation and a fine for the drug charges. He attempted to explain his actions by his "orientalism" and his terminal illness.
In 2012 the ex-wife of German ex-president Bettina Wulff won several court settlements with some media outlets and the search engine Google not to connect her with an alleged past as a prostitute.
The coalition of Social Democrats and the Green Party that governed the country from 1998 until late 2005 attempted to improve the legal situation of prostitutes in the years 2000–2003. These efforts have been criticized as inadequate by prostitutes' organizations such as Hydra, which lobby for full normality of the occupation and the elimination of all mention of prostitution from the legal code. The conservative parties in the Bundestag, while supporting the goal of improving prostitutes' access to the social security and health care system, have opposed the new law because they want to retain the "offending good morals" status.
The churches run several support groups for prostitutes. These generally favor attempts to remove stigmatization and improve the legal situation of prostitutes, but they retain the long term abolitionist goal of a world without prostitution and encourage all prostitutes to quit.
Alice Schwarzer rejects all prostitution as inherently oppressive and abusive; she favors a law like that in Sweden, where in 1999 after heavy feminist lobbying a coalition of Social Democrats, Greens and leftists outlawed the buying but not the selling of sexual services. German-American journalist and men's rights activist Jerry Hoss likens the push for prostitution prohibition to a demand for a "final solution of the prostitution problem by Feminazis." He asserts that pimping, forced labor, abduction, false imprisonment, illegal immigration, extortion, rape, bodily injury etc. are already strictly forbidden in Germany and no new laws are needed, just better enforcement.
In 2005, the ruling grand coalition of CDU and SPD announced plans to punish customers of forced prostitutes, if the customer could reasonably have been aware of the situation. In April 2009 it was reported that the plans would provide for a penalty of up to 5 years in prison. The law had not been enacted when the center-right CDU-FDP coalition came to power in November 2009. In 2014, the coalition of CDU and SPD renewed their plans to increase regulation and control of prostitution. Several organisations protested against these plans, amongst them prostitutes organisations as Hydra, Doña Carmen, the 'Berufsverband erotische und sexuelle Dienstleistungen', and an anonymous group of customers, the Freieroffensive. In 2016 & 2017 many of the proposals were brought into law.
- ^"The Act Regulating the Legal Situation of Prostitutes – implementation, impact, current developments"(PDF). Social Research Institute of Applied Sciences Freiburg. Retrieved 4 October 2009.
- ^ abcd"Final Report TAMPEP 8, Germany"(PDF), TAMPEP reports, October 2009, archived from the original(PDF) on 20 July 2011
- ^P. Schuster: Das Frauenhaus. Städtische Bordelle in Deutschland (1350–1600), Paderborn 1992
- ^Kathryn Norberg. Prostitution. Encyclopedia of European Social History
- ^Die Prostitution im Mittelalter, in Alltag im Spätmittelalter, Harry Kühnel, Helmut Hundsbichler (eds.), 2nd edn., Kaleidoskop, 1984Archived 3 September 2014 at the Wayback Machine.
- ^ abc"Hausen und Hegen". Der Spiegel (in German). 7 April 1965. Retrieved 13 November 2017.
- ^Schmitter, Romina (September 2013). Prostitution – Das älteste Gewerbe der Welt? In: Aus Politik und Zeitgeschichte. p. 23.
- ^Ayaß, Wolfgang (1992). Das Arbeitshaus Breitenau. University of Kassel. ISBN 3-88122-670-2.