Date: 14.06.2024

by Adam Dworak

Dutch Courts Seek Supreme Court Guidance on Refunds from Unlicensed Online Casinos

The Dutch courts of North Holland and Amsterdam have recently sought advice from the Dutch Supreme Court concerning cases where players are attempting to secure refunds from online casinos that operated without a license prior to regulation. This development follows a series of conflicting rulings in ongoing lawsuits, where players are seeking to recover losses from these unlicensed platforms.

Diverging Court Decisions on Refund Claims

Numerous Dutch gamblers have initiated legal action to reclaim money lost at online casinos that were not licensed to operate legally within the country. These cases have led to a variety of court decisions, with some courts ruling in favor of the players and others siding with the gambling operators.

Players have successfully won lawsuits against significant operators such as Bwin, PokerStars, and Unibet. However, a recent ruling from a court in Breda favored Bwin, stating that Article 1 of the Betting and Gaming Act had become ineffective in validating gambling contracts, thereby rejecting claims for refunds based on this ground.

Questions Referred to the Supreme Court

To address these inconsistencies, the courts in Amsterdam and North Holland have submitted several questions to the Supreme Court, as reported by Dutch media outlet Casino Nieuws.

These questions primarily revolve around the interpretation and application of Article 1 of the Betting and Gaming Act, which makes it illegal to operate gambling services without a license from the Dutch gambling regulator, Kansspelautoriteit (KSA).

The courts aim to determine whether this article invalidates contracts between Dutch consumers and unlicensed gambling providers, whether societal changes or enforcement policies have influenced this, and whether compliance with the KSA’s prioritization criteria impacts these cases. Additionally, they are investigating if players can claim refunds for losses based on unjust enrichment if the contracts are deemed void.

Major Claims Against PokerStars and PartyCasino

Currently, the courts in Amsterdam and North Holland are hearing two significant cases involving PartyCasino and PokerStars, each demanding €135,000 ($144,932) from the operators.

These reimbursement claims are part of a broader legal battle encompassing approximately 50 lawsuits across different parts of the Dutch judicial system, all seeking clarity on similar issues.

Preliminary rulings from the courts in Amsterdam and North Holland seem to favor gamblers, suggesting that agreements with unlicensed operators may be considered null and void. However, before making any final decisions, the courts have opted to seek guidance from the Supreme Court to ensure uniformity in their judgments.