German Court Suspends Player Refund Lawsuit Pending EU Ruling

February 15, 2024
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Germany’s Federal Court of Justice has suspended a player-refund lawsuit against a Malta-based gambling operator pending a ruling by the Court of Justice of the European Union.
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Germany’s Federal Court of Justice has suspended a player-refund lawsuit against a Malta-based gambling operator pending a ruling by the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU).

The move has led to the suspension of several other player-loss refund cases, although not all, attorneys say.

The referral to the CJEU came in July 2023 from a Maltese civil court looking for a ruling on whether a ban on online gambling in effect in Germany until June 2021 violated EU law.

The German court had been considering a case on appeal in which a player is seeking refunds for losing €133,000 playing virtual poker in 2018 and 2019, before the legalisation of online slots and poker. 

The player claimed they did not know online poker was illegal at the time.

A definitive ruling could help clarify the legal status of both the German and the Malta court cases, said gambling attorney Martin Arendts.

“Until now, the German courts were reluctant to effectively apply the hypocrisy test with regard to the quite restrictive, but contradictory, national regulations,” he said.

But some other courts are continuing to adjudicate player claims without waiting for a ruling from the CJEU and “reputable operators”, especially listed operators, are still settling player claims, he said.

The German court published its suspension notice on January 17.

The defendant in the Malta case is European Lotto and Betting, also known as Lottoland.

German lawyers said the ramifications of a CJEU ruling could potentially have an impact on player refund suits in other countries, such as Austria and the Netherlands.

A Dutch law firm said it was not ready to discuss the suits, but there are roughly 50 such cases in the country.

Stefan Bohar, a spokesman for AdvoFin, a litigation finance company that has filed hundreds of lawsuits in Germany and Austria, said the company doubts a CJEU ruling would have wide impact.

“We do not see any influence on other markets,” he said in an email.

“We do not see any relevant ruling that will change anything for the recoverability of losses at illegal providers coming from the CJEU either,” Bohar said. “The CJEU has ruled countless times before, that the regulation of gambling is a matter of the member states.”

Separately, a North Holland court has said that it is competent to offer a judgment on a player claim against a Malta-based operator, N1 Interactive.

In that case, a player is seeking €331,000 for losses sustained before N1 had a Dutch gambling licence.

Austrian companies have been deluged with suits, following an Austrian Supreme Court ruling which said online casino operators are unlicensed and, therefore, illegal.

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