Dutch Court Rules Against PokerStars and Bwin – Orders Return of Player Losses

The operators will have to pay back in excess of $400,000 to comply with the rulings, which state their contracts with the players were void as the companies operated without proper gambling licenses.
April 22, 2024

The rulings are in for two separate gambling-related cases in the Netherlands, both of which were brought before the Overijssel District Court by former online poker players.

The two players in questioned sued over losses incurred in the period when Bwin and PokerStars (owned by Flutter Entertainment and Entain Group) operated in the Netherlands without proper local licensing.

The two operators were ordered to pay back all player losses in full, which in these two cases were quite high, amounting to well over $400,000 in total.

The two cases come in the wake of other similar cases raised in Germany, Austria, and the Netherlands, with former players looking to be reimbursed claiming their contacts with the operators were null and void.

Two Separate Cases with the Same Epilogue

The two cases raised before the Overijssel District Court in the Netherlands had the same background, as the plaintiffs sought to be compensated for their gambling losses incurred with the online poker operators prior to 2021.

For some context, it is important to know that the Netherlands only regulated online poker in October 2021, at which point both Bwin and PokerStars stopped operating in the market, although Entain now operates there with a gaming license under another brand.

Before the regulation, these two and many other operators accepted Dutch players under their Malta Gaming Authority (MGA) licenses, which were widely considered as the European standard for online gaming.

However, the Dutch court decided that the licenses were not valid, and the operators had no right to accept deposits from Dutch players, and ordered the players’ losses to be reimbursed.

As the result of this order, PokerStars will now need to pay $230,705 and €400, while Bwin will have to compensate €187,622. These amounts were the results of numerous deposits made over the course of many years.

These cases are not the only ones either, as other European courts have made similar decisions, putting operators in an awkward position. While some decided to pay up, others are still fighting their cases in higher courts.

What Does This Mean for the iGaming Operators?

The decisions of the Dutch court are somewhat dubious, as operators like PokerStars and Bwin were operating under MGA licenses and were likely to believe they were not breaking any laws.

What’s even more, the lawyers for these two reputable online poker brands argued that the majority of player losses in online poker does not go to them directly, but the court decided that since the money does remain in the operator’s bank account, they were the ones liable for the losses.

Decisions like this will likely ensure that operators pay even more attention to local licensing and regulation in different areas, which these particular brands have already been doing as both companies launched US online casinos and poker sites in regulated markets over the last few years.

Yet, the question of fairness remains, as operators are now being ordered to pay back losses they did not directly profit from and for a period in which the Netherlands did not have a clear online gambling law in place.

Malta authorities have been doing their best to help European igaming companies, many of which are registered in their jurisdiction, with Bill 55 which aims to protect them from legal liability in cases like these.

The Bill is currently being overviewed by the European Commission, as Malta authorities seek to ensure it is compatible with European law and allows companies to operate freely in Europe without unnecessary restrictions.

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