A flood of lawsuits could be on the horizon for German online gambling incumbents, as the High Court of Frankfurt supports a ruling that an online casino customer was entitled to reclaim losses.
Brought to light by German weekly news magazine Spiegel, a gambler from the region of Hesse had made a claim against a ‘Malta-based operator ‘declaring that his losses of approximately €12,000 should be refunded.
Citing a problem-gambling addiction, the gambler made his claim on losses that had been taken during 2017 – four years prior to German Lander settling on the federal laws of the Fourth Interstate Treaty on Gambling (GlüNeuRStv) regime.
Taking legal action against the online casino, the Gambler won a first-stage appeal granted by the District Court of Giessen (Hesse) as judges ruled that online casino was not legal gambling vertical under existing laws prior to the GlüNeuRStv being established.
Spiegel’s report identified the online casino as being part of FTSE100 gambling group Entain Plc. Defending its rights, the online casino outlined that it had operated legally during German gambling’s ‘transitionary period’ – that lasted more than a decade, as operators waited on German Lander to settle on Interstate Treaty laws.
During the transitionary period, the unnamed Entain property stated that its engagement with the customer would have fallen under the remit of its Malta licence that could be applied through EU laws.
Furthermore, the Entain property stated that it had provided the customer with a ‘tick box’, that had informed him of his ‘legal situation’ as a German customer playing on a Malta-licensed operator.
Proceeding to the High Court of Frankfurt – judges reviewing the claim sided with the customer once more, as the online casino was deemed to be insufficient in “pointing out that the game was illegal in Germany”.
The judgement noted that the operator had a German-language offering so that the lack of a necessary license in Germany did not have to be an issue per se”.
“The judges also happily argued that the company itself had “emphasized the special difficulty of the legal situation”, but at the same time accused the plaintiff of recklessly ignoring a legal situation that was allegedly easy to research,” Spiegel’s report cited.
The decision against the online casino was deemed of consequence on the German gambling market, as the High Court of Frankfurt is the first Lander-based regulatory institution to provide legal oversight on the dispute.
German market developments see GlüNeuRStv-licensed operators wait for the Bundesländer of Saxony-Anhalt to issue the market’s first online casino and poker licences.
Applicants are reported to have been frustrated by the licensing framework applied to GlüNeuRStv applications, as they require approval by two-thirds majority of members of the Glücksspielkollegium – the market’s temporary licensing unit made-up of 16 Bundesländer members.
It is hoped that the GlüNeuRStv regime’s online casino laws and licensing framework is settled by the end of year trading, as Saxony-Anhalt moves to establish the Glücksspielbehörde as German gambling’s new federal regulator.