Two Dutch Gamblers Refunded Losses by Pokerstars and Bwin in Legal Ruling 

Two Dutch gamblers who lost a combined €450,000 (US $479,500) at online poker and casino sites Pokerstars and Bwin have had their losses refunded by the operators. That’s after a recent regional court ruling in the European country. 

The gambling losses occurred between 2006 and 2021. During that time, online casinos were not regulated in the Netherlands. 

Under the Dutch policy of gedoogbeleid (or gedogen), some activities that take place in legal grey areas are essentially tolerated by authorities, with no penalties more severe than an unofficial slap on the wrist. 

However, when online gambling became legal in the Netherlands, the situation changed. With no grey area remaining, Bwin and Pokerstars continued to supply Dutch customers during the application process of their license. 

The Overijssel regional court this week agreed with the claimants’ arguments that any money spent with the now-licensed operators — before those licenses were issued — was spent based on legally invalid contracts and should be refunded.

The claimants were represented by Amsterdam-based lawyer Benzi Loonstein. He is also representing a hundred other claimants in similar cases. 

The Case

The two claimants were Dutch men from the province of Overijssel. Both gambled hundreds of thousands at Bwin and Pokerstars between 2006 and 2021. 

One man, from the town of Staphorst, near the city of Zwolle, in the eastern Netherlands, gambled 187,000 euros (or around US $199,100) at Pokerstars. 

The other player was a hundred miles away in Almelo in the same province. Between 2018 and 2020, he lost 217,000 euros (US $231,000) at online casino Bwin.

There have been several unsuccessful attempts to push similar cases in Dutch courts since online gambling became officially legal in 2021. 

The Precedent 

The lawyer pursuing the case for the claimants promised more lawsuits among similar lines to follow. 

“We have been working intensively on this for a year and a half now. The gambling companies have clearly ignored their duty of care,” said Loonstein, speaking to Dutch paper De Telegraaf. 

“They can be reached 24/7 by people, while they do not see the damage being done. I assist clients who have gambled away their deceased parents’ inheritance in a few days, or whose savings account that was intended for their old age has disappeared. Such stories are very poignant.”

This case, as is very possible, may set a precedent that the policy of gedogen cannot be applied retroactively once a legal grey area has been settled. 

As well as having financial implications for gambling companies that have supplied the grey-area Dutch market for years, any precedent could have an effect on a number of other semi-illicit industries tolerated by the Dutch government under gedoogbeleid.

That might include the famous cannabis coffee shops and brothels of the capital city of Amsterdam. 

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