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German court orders operator to reimburse €25,375 loss for unlicensed play

| By Marese O'Hagan
The Regional Court (Landesgericht) for Köln, in Nordrhein-Westfalen, has ruled that an online casino operator must reimburse a player for €25,375 (£21,266/USD$27,832) they lost while playing with the operator before online casino gaming was legalised in Germany.

The player played online casino games hosted by the unnamed operator in question between October 2017 and April 2020.

The operator was based in Gibraltar and did not have the appropriate licence to offer these games in Germany – as online casino play was only permitted in Schleswig-Holstein at the time – but the plaintiff was able to access the games nonetheless.

The games were available to German residents, and the website in question used the German language.

The actions of the operator violated section 4, paragraph 4 of Germany’s State Treaty on Gambling that was in place at the time.

It was ruled that because of this, the operator did not have the legal grounds to obtain the player’s money.

The Fourth edition of the State Treaty was enacted on 1 July 2021 and broadened online gaming offerings in Germany beyond sports betting, which was the only form of online gambling allowed before the Fourth Treaty took effect.

“The online games of chance should not have been offered in Germany,” explained István Cocron of CLLB Rechtsanwälte, the lawyer acting on behalf of the plaintiff. “It was not until 1 July 2021 that the requirements for offering online gambling in Germany were relaxed.

“However, these changes do not apply retrospectively and a licence valid in Germany is absolutely necessary for offering games of chance on the internet. Therefore, in many cases there are still good chances of recovering losses from online casinos.”

This is the first case of its kind in Germany in which a regional court sided with the player, though lower courts had found the same.

In December 2021 Bonn Regional Court – also in Nordrhein Westfalen – upheld a judgement made by the Euskirchen District Court earlier in the year, which dismissed a player’s claim for reimbursement for online gambling losses made before the Fourth State Treaty was in place.

In two other cases, the respective courts – the Braunschweig Regional Court in Niedersachsen and the Leipzig Regional Court in Sachsen – ruled that the plaintiffs had broken the law by gambling illegally and therefore did not have grounds for reimbursement.

The Landesgerichte are the second-highest level of state-level courts in Germany, below the Higher Regional Court (Oberlandesgericht).

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