Dutch Gamblers Want Their Money Back, Seek Compensation Through Lawsuit

Posted on: December 6, 2022, 07:47h. 

Last updated on: December 6, 2022, 01:23h.

Dutch gamblers are pulling a play out of the German gambling playbook. They’re going after online gaming operators that offered their services in the Netherlands without a license, hoping to receive substantial payouts for their losses.

Netherlands court room
Judges hear a case in a courtroom in the Netherlands. A new lawsuit hopes to force online casino operators to reimburse gamblers for losses prior to legalized iGaming. (Image: Associated Press)

A group of Dutch gamblers, now numbering over 100, wants online casinos to return to them the money they spent on the platforms. Their lawyer, Benzi Loonstein, asserts that the casinos should never have allowed them to play and he’s ready to fight, according to local media outlet Volkskrant.

The case is similar to a string of lawsuits that continue to play out in German and Austrian courts. PokerStars, Betano, and others have received orders from court judges to repay what could amount to millions of dollars.

Gaming Operators Broke the Law

Loonstein argues that online casinos are fueling the addictions of their players. He points out that many gamblers are younger and more vulnerable than traditional players, and says operators offered online gaming knowing they didn’t hold a license.

The Netherlands only launched licensed online gambling on October 1 of last year. Therefore, any activity prior to that, according to Loonstein, was illegally conducted.

Online casinos also violated written or unwritten responsible gaming policies, according to Loonstein. He argues that operators must protect consumers, even in the absence of legal, established procedures and policies.

Now that online casinos are legal, they must intervene with problem gambling for the sake of the consumer. Virtually all mature gaming markets have made responsible gambling the cornerstone of their activity.

Although Loonstein’s clients are afraid to publicly reveal their identities, he says they’re relieved that the first four casinos have now been issued summonses. Loonstein tried to get the unidentified operators to agree to offline settlements, but the majority rejected that attempt.

Loonstein says a public hearing is a big step for his clients. Some claim they lost everything at the whims of the operators, and believe compensation is in order.

Kindred Claps Back

In a response to the lawsuit, Kindred Group, which operates Unibet, among other platforms, argues that trying to launch a lawsuit is futile. The global gaming operator said that gaming lawyers are only looking for a quick score. As an example, they referred to a case in 2016 in which a Dutch court denied a gambler’s claim for compensation.

In that instance, the gambler sought €185,000 (US$194,065) for his losses on Unibet. The judge determined that, because the Netherlands hadn’t begun to issue licenses and didn’t go after violators, online gaming was, therefore, acceptable and no rules were broken.

Loonstein disagrees. He points out that the country’s Council of State, a government advisory body, ruled this past summer in another case that confirmed that offering online gaming prior to legalization was, in fact, illegal.

That gives the lawyer fuel to support the new lawsuits. There’s also the possibility that it could backfire. The court could go after the gamblers since they were participating in illegal activity. However, just like in Germany and Austria, that has never happened.