The court has agreed that an operator must refund a player’s gambling losses incurred before the legalisation of online gambling.
Germany.- It seems more lawsuits could be on the way after a senior court agreed that a player should be refunded gambling losses that he incurred before the legalisation of online gaming. The High Court of Frankfurt has upheld a ruling ordering a Malta-licensed operator to refund €12,000 to a player from Hesse.
The player, who said he had a gambling addiction, had taken legal action to recover losses he incurred in 2017. Online gambling was only legalised across Germany with the introduction of the Fourth Interstate Treaty on Gambling last July.
The player won a first-stage appeal at the District Court of Giessen (Hesse), and the now the High Court of Frankfurt has confirmed that decision. According to the German newspaper, Spiegel, the operator in question was part of the UK’s Entain Plc.
The operator argued it had functioned legally during a transition period for German gambling during which states were negotiating new gambling legislation. Entain claimed that during this period, its operations fell under its Malta licence, which it said was valid according to EU law.
Entain argued that it had also provided the customer with a “tick box”, informing him of his legal situation as a German customer playing via a Malta-licensed operator. However, judges found in favour of the customer, saying it was insufficient for the operator to have “pointed out that the game was illegal in Germany”.
The judges also argued that the company had emphasised the special difficulty of the legal situation while accusing the plaintiff of ignoring a legal situation that was allegedly easy to research.
Legal cases have been brought by several customers in Germany who lost money with gaming operators before the legalisation of online gaming last year.
Last month, a regional court (the second highest level of court) in Köln, Nordrhein-Westfalen, found in favour of a player, ordering an operator to refund €25,375 in losses.
The player had brought the case against an unnamed Gibraltar-based online casino operator whose products he used between October 2017 and April 2020. At that time, online casino gaming was only permitted in the German state of Schleswig-Holstein, but the operator’s games were available in German to all German residents.
Until now other courts have rejected such claims from players, forming the opinion that the players themselves had also broken the law and should have known that online gaming was not legal, but the latest decisions could open the way for dozens of claims.
Germany’s Schleswig-Holstein to start online table game licence process
Earlier this week, the state of Schleswig-Holstein unveiled details of the application process for its online table game licences. It will open the process on May 23, and operators will have until August 15 to submit an application for one of four online table game licences by email.
The application fee has been set at €2,500. As for the criteria to award the four 15-year licences, the state’s legislature said it would evaluate operators’ “reliability, expertise and ability”.
The state will issue five online table game licences, but one will automatically go to state-run Spielbank Schleswig-Holstein
Schleswig-Holstein is a unique case in Germany in that it’s the only state that already allowed online casino operations prior to the introduction of the new federal online gaming legislation. Before the launch of the new regulatory system, it had no limit on the number of licences.