Players to Receive Refunds from Bwin and PokerStars Following Court Ruling in the Netherlands

On Wednesday, a District Court in the Netherlands handed down landmark verdicts in lawsuits against online gambling operators Bwin and PokerStars. The court ruled in favor of players who had lost money during a period when online gambling was illegal in the Netherlands, a situation that persisted until the country legalized online gambling in October 2021. The court found that since the companies operated without a license, the gambling agreements were null and void, and therefore, the companies must reimburse the players. Both verdicts have been declared enforceable on a provisional basis, which means both operators must adhere to them immediately, despite any potential appeals.

In the individual cases, a player demanded from Bwin, which still lacks a Dutch license, the return of €187,622 plus legal interest for losses incurred between January 2018 and November 2019. Similarly, another case involved PokerStars, which had withdrawn its licensing application in 2023. The plaintiff claimed $230,705 and €400 plus legal interest for losses accumulated from 2006 to 2021 through poker, online casino games, and sports betting.

The court’s decisions stemmed from the fact that the online casinos did not have the necessary licenses to operate, leading to the verdicts that declared the gambling contracts void. Despite appeals from Bwin and PokerStars citing partial invalidity and fairness, the court dismissed these claims as inadequately supported.

Additionally, PokerStars contended that since the lost funds primarily went to other players, the company should not be obligated to refund the losses. However, the court rejected this defense, stating the company facilitated the transfer of funds, thus implicating it directly in the losses. As a result, PokerStars is ordered to repay approximately €225,000 to the plaintiff, broken down as follows: $230,705 (€216,852) plus €400 for the player’s loss, €2,838 in out-of-court collection costs, and €8,012 in legal fees.

For Bwin, the ordered repayment amounts to €187,622 plus legal interest for the player’s losses, along with €8,012 in legal fees. Benzi Loonstein, the attorney representing the players, hailed the decisions as groundbreaking, emphasizing the personal distress caused to players by the conduct of these online casinos, affecting hundreds of thousands in the Netherlands. He noted, “This is the first time that the court has ordered online casinos to refund the bets made by players. The court has demonstrated that the conduct of the online casinos was unacceptable, and the losses must now be repaid.”

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