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Frankfurt court orders online casino to refund player €26,000

| By Robert Fletcher
The Frankfurt Higher Regional Court in Germany has ordered an unnamed online casino to pay back over €26,000 (£22,011/$27,292) to a player that used the site before online gambling was regulated nationwide in Germany.
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The case, which was initially heard in the Gießen Regional Court in September last year, relates to activity on the German-language website between January 2018 and February 2020, a period in which the customer lost more than €26,000.

The court said that the casino was operated by a business based in Gibraltar and did not hold a licence to offer online gambling anywhere in Germany. At the time, Schleswig-Holstein was the only state in which online gaming was legal.

The GlüNeuRStV, which expanded Germany’s igaming market outside online betting, did not come into effect until 1 July 2021.

The Gießen Regional Court ruled in favour of the player, with the Frankfurt Higher Regional Court also agreeing that the losses should be reimbursed as the online casino was operating without a licence.

“Since the operator violated the ban on online gambling in accordance with Section 4 (4) of the State Treaty on Gambling with their offer, they obtained the stakes without any legal reason,” the player’s attorney István Cocron said. “We have therefore demanded that our clients must be fully compensated for the loss.”

Cocron added that while the decision could be appealed by the operator, it is unlikely to be successful given the nature of the original decision, saying that the introduction of GlüNeuRStV does not change this breach.

Referring to the player breaching the State Treaty on Gambling, the Frankfurt court said it cannot be certain that the player was aware of the ban on online gambling, nor that he was breaking rules set out in the treaty.

Therefore, the court ruled that the original decision of the Gießen court was correct and the consumer was entitled to reimbursement.

“Numerous courts have already ruled that online casinos must compensate players for their losses,” Cocron said. “The decision of the Frankfurt Higher Regional Court shows that the arguments of the providers of online gambling are in vain and the players therefore have a very good chance of recovering the money they thought they had lost.” 

The ruling comes after the Regional Court (Landesgericht) for Köln, in Nordrhein-Westfalen, in March ruled that an online casino operator must reimburse a player for €25,375 they lost while playing with the operator before online casino gaming was legalised in Germany.

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

This was the first case of its kind in Germany in which a regional court sided with the player, though lower courts had found the same, with earlier, similar cases having been dismissed.

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