Dutch court orders Bwin and Pokerstars to refund gambling losses

The court ruled that agreements were invalid as the operators had no licence.
The court ruled that agreements were invalid as the operators had no licence.

The landmark ruling could lead to more lawsuits relating to losses incurred before the regulation of online gambling in 2021.

The Netherlands.- Overijssel District Court has ordered Bwin and Pokerstars to refund a combined €450,000 in gambling losses incurred by two players before the Netherlands regulated online gambling in 2021. The cases were brought on the grounds that the operators had been providing gambling without a licence at the time.

The cases involve a player from Staphorst who lost €187,000 with Bwin between 2018 and 2019 and a player from Almelo who lost €217,000 with Pokerstars between 2006 and 2021. The Dutch gambling regulator, the KSA, only began issuing licences for online gambling in April 2021, and the regulated gambling market opened in October of the same year.

The courts ruled that the absence of a licence to operate legally in the Dutch market meant the agreements with Dutch customers were invalid and that, as a result, the operators must refund the losses incurred. Lawyer Benzi Loonstein, who says he is representing dozens of players in similar situations, described the decision as a landmark ruling that would lead to more lawsuits against operators.

Loonstein said: “We have been working intensively on this for a year and a half now. The gambling companies clearly ignored their duty of care. I assist clients who have gambled away their deceased parents’ inheritance in a few days or whose savings account that was intended for their old age has disappeared. Such stories are very poignant. These are situations that the gambling companies are not aware of.

“Yet these stories were not decisive for the court. They made a purely factual ruling: there was no licence for the Dutch market and therefore the agreement with each customer was annulled.”

This week, a narrow majority of MPs in the Dutch House of Representatives voted in favour of motions to ban online slots and to prohibit online gambling advertising. Other motions call for mandatory financial risk checks and identification for gambling.

The motions were among 114 submitted to the House and were presented by the Socialist Party MP Michiel van Nispen. The proposed ban on online slots, which is grounded in the argument that the vertical is particularly high risk, received 79 votes in favour. The Dutch gambling association NOGA has called on the minister for legal protection Franc Weerwind to ignore the vote.

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