Industry Wins First Dutch Player Refund Ruling

May 31, 2024
A player refund case has been dismissed in the Netherlands after a judge found in favour of Entain-owned Bwin.

A player refund case has been dismissed in the Netherlands after a judge found in favour of Entain-owned Bwin.

In a judgement that bucked a dangerous trend for gambling operators, a judge in the Zeeland-West-Brabant court ruled in favour of Electraworks Europe Limited, the Entain unit which operated the Bwin brand in the Netherlands until October 2021.

A gambler had attempted to claim €94,000 lost on Bwin between 2017 and 2021, up until it became possible for online operators to apply for a Dutch licence.

Recent cases against Entain and Flutter in different regional courts have ended in favour of customers, who were awarded around €400,000 in two separate judgements.

Last week, a ruling against Kindred saw the firm ordered to repay €93,000 in gambling losses from a period between 2020 and 2021.

The judge in the Zeeland-West-Brabant case appeared doubtful that the Netherlands’ pre-2021 law could truly be said to outlaw unlicensed gambling emanating from other countries in the EU, given that the presence of a Dutch grey market was a well-known fact and because the legislation dated from 1964, and therefore couldn’t adequately consider betting on the internet.

There was also no clear precedent set by enforcement agencies or the Ministry of Justice, the judge said. In some cases, operators were targeted, but in other cases, including for Bwin, there appeared to be some level of toleration.

This most recent ruling, in favour of Entain, provides respite in what is expected to be a wave of similar claims coming before the courts in the coming months.

The glut of player refund cases take their inspiration from similar claims in Austria, where the country’s Supreme Court eventually ruled in favour of gamblers and all but guaranteed that all online casino losses from the grey market could be reclaimed through relevant court action.

The presence of early divergent rulings by different regional judges in the Netherlands suggests the issue may also eventually wind up in the nation’s highest court.

That appears to be the expectation of Benzi Loonstein, the lawyer masterminding every Dutch case so far.

After his first loss in court, he told Dutch gambling news outlet that the momentum was still in favour of his clients.

“The ruling is surprising because it deviates from established case law. All other courts that have ruled to date have ruled that the unlicensed casinos must pay back the money they obtained illegally,” he said to the outlet.

“At the same time, it is not surprising that given the many cases we handle, there will always be judges with a different opinion. You saw the same thing in the gambling cases in Germany and Austria: initially there were sometimes deviating statements. But ultimately, the gambling agreements were invariably declared null and void by the higher courts.”

The presence of Malta’s Bill 55, now passed into law, presents the most serious challenge to actually recovering the money awarded by courts in other European countries.

It effectively blocks the judgements from being transferred to national courts in Malta, where most of the online gambling companies targeted are based.

The European Commission has confirmed it is reviewing Bill 55, but has issued no public comment on the legislation for over a year.

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