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Published on: 12 December 2023

Online gambling companies must refund money to players

Since 1 October 2021, online gambling has been legal in the Netherlands. However, online casinos must have a valid licence from the Kansspelautoriteit to offer online gambling. Many online gamblers lost large sums of money before then. This was possible because the online casinos still offered their games online to gamblers from the Netherlands, even though they knew this was not allowed by the Kansspelautoriteit. Victims hold the online gambling providers responsible for these losses. Some were already taking legal action. In this article, I will explain what legal options are available.

Legal options

First of all, online gambling providers have also offered their services in other countries without a licence in recent years. Several court cases followed this. The Austrian and German courts, for instance, have already ruled that offering gambling online illegally, should lead to the refund of the amounts gambled to gamblers. Many from Germany and Austria have reclaimed their money based on those rulings in recent years.

Recently, Dutch courts have also ruled in several cases that online casinos must repay large sums of money to injured parties. Therefore, if you lost money gambling at online casinos before 1 October 2021, you may be entitled to a refund of those losses.

Dutch court ruling

The online gambling platforms have been ordered by the Dutch court (in absentia) to refund sums of money to online gamblers. A judgment in absentia is a sentence handed down by the court while the defendant, in this case the online gambling provider, did not appear in the proceedings. Thus, the online gambling platforms did not defend themselves substantively. In a default judgment, the court only reviews the claim marginally. Default judgment will be granted by the court if the claim does not appear to it as unlawful or unfounded.

Against this default judgment, online gambling providers can file an opposition. Unibet, for instance, has stated in a written response that it will file an objection to the Dutch court’s ruling. After the objection is filed in time, the proceedings at the court will be reopened and continued. As a result, online gambling providers, such as Unibet, will still be able to file a defence.

Legal change Malta

Many online gambling platforms are based in Malta. The Malta Gaming Authority’s annual report shows that online gambling companies account for almost 10 per cent of the total Maltese economy. Last June, a bill was passed by Malta. This allows online casinos based on the island to disregard foreign judgments if the gambling platform complies with Maltese licensing requirements and legislation.

This is an obstacle when such a gambling platform does not voluntarily proceed with payment after the court determines that it is obliged to do so. Normally, the logical next step would be to proceed to seizure to still get paid. However, if the platform does not have to take any notice of the Dutch judgment, the judgment may be a de facto pyrrhic victory.

As a result, the law could face a lot of criticism from abroad. The European Commission is scrutinising the Maltese law and will test it against European standards. However, a decision could be years away. In the meantime, therefore, it should be seen whether the convicted gambling companies will voluntarily make payments as a result of a guilty verdict.


Do you have any questions? Then contact one of our lawyers by mail, telephone or fill in the contact form for a free initial consultation. We will be happy to think along with you.

Articles by Floris Krijt

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