A judge in Cologne, Germany has ordered Cyprus-based gambling operator Brivio to repay €14,000 ($14,845) to a gambler who lost the money on its German-language Vulcanvegas.com sportsbook between 2020 and 2022.
During that time, Brivio wasn’t licensed to operate in Germany. Therefore, the activity constituted illegal gambling in violation of the country’s Fourth State Treaty on Gambling, the court ruled.
The judgment was made by default as Brivio didn’t defend itself in court. The operator must also pay the associated court costs.
As of Wednesday, VulcanVegas, currently known as “new-VulcanVegas.com,” was still offering a German-language version of its site. The site is licensed in Curacao.
This is the latest in a series of reimbursement cases in Germany that have gone in favor of gamblers. That’s since a landmark 2018 ruling determined that players who use credit cards to fund accounts with unlicensed online gambling companies are under no obligation to repay the balance.
It’s the first case that dealt with gambling activity that occurred both before and after Germany’s online gambling reforms came into effect. The ruling could spark an avalanche of lawsuits from gamblers eager to claw back money lost on the black market.
Germany’s new online gaming regulations are among the strictest in the world. They include high taxes and limits on stakes and monthly deposits. Critics say this will naturally drive players toward the black market, which is unencumbered by such restrictions.
Germany’s newly created federal gambling regulator, Glücksspielbehörde’s (GGL), is charged with suppressing the black market. Some of its powers include IP blocking and sanctioning payment processors. Court rulings that make unlicensed gambling losses reimbursable or unenforceable are also likely to give black market operators pause for thought.
The German betting association DSWV says that around 400 unlicensed gambling sites are currently directly targeting Germany.
PokerStars on the Hook?
Meanwhile, PokerStars may also be bracing itself for a slew of litigation. That’s after Cologne’s higher court ruled last month that the online poker giant must pay a German player €58,517.70, the net total they lost playing poker and blackjack between 2014 and 2020.
This was before the new German licensing regime came into force. At the time, PokerStars’ operations in the country were considered “gray.” While they were not expressly permitted by German law, the online poker site argued that it was a European company operating in an EU country under EU law, which guarantees the free movement of goods and services. And since Germany monopolized online gambling, there was no opportunity for it to apply for a license.
With the advent of the new licensing regime, this argument became redundant, and PokerStars swiftly applied for, and received, a license.
In September last year, PokerStars paid an astonishing $300 million to the state of Kentucky to settle a lawsuit that accused it of offering unlicensed gambling in the state from 2007 to 2011.
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