Online casino money back – serious or utopia?

Who doesn't dream of getting their money back in an online casino? After all, who likes to lose large amounts? Some law firms advertise that money lost in online casinos can be reimbursed in almost all cases. But what is it about these statements? Can you really claim your payments and money back? You can find our opinion on this in this post.

Lose a lot of money in an online casino and then claim it back: It works. At least under certain conditions. In fact, several courts have recently awarded players compensation.

The reason: Some online casinos operated without a valid license, so the contracts with customers were illegal and had to be reversed. What chances do players have? In which cases is it worth going to court? How is the claim best enforced? Do I always get my money back? We answer these and other questions about claims against online casinos here.

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Overview of the lawyers who can make it possible to claim your money back.

Many online casinos are illegal – money back is given here

The market for online gaming in Germany has an annual volume of several billion euros. What is special about such a large market: It is essentially illegal. Online gambling in Germany was largely banned in Germany until recently.

For a long time, countless online casinos operated in a kind of gray area. In fact and in technical terms, it was easy for every German customer to open a gaming account, make deposits and use money – and if in doubt, lose it.

In principle, this option still exists. However, the risks for illegal casino operators are now growing. The law allows players to reimburse their losses and they can get your lost money back. Judges across all instances and courts argue similarly: Since online gambling is usually banned in Germany (or was until recently), the deposits and bets made by the players in the casinos were not based on a valid contract. Without this valid contract there is no legal basis for payment – therefore this money must be refunded.

Legal German online casinos have only been around for a short time – no money back

On July 1, 2021, after a long struggle, the new State Treaty on Gaming came into force. The main content: Online casinos can now apply for German licenses. Virtual slot machines and poker are licensed by a central authority (still under construction) in Halle an der Saale. The federal states are responsible for banker games such as blackjack or roulette. Anyone who receives a German license is allowed to offer online games of chance in Germany.

However, the entry into force of the new State Treaty on Gambling does not change any claims that arose against unlicensed providers before this point in time. Legislation relates only to the future, not to the past.

The federal state of Schleswig-Holstein is an exception. Here, games of chance have been legal since 2012: The state had withdrawn from the previous State Treaty on Gambling. Players from Schleswig-Holstein who have lost money at a casino licensed there can usually not reclaim their stakes.

However, residents of Schleswig-Holstein who have lost money at a casino licensed abroad can make claims and claim their money back. This probably also applies to players who live in other German federal states and suffered losses from providers licensed in Schleswig-Holstein.

Legal online casinos with EU license – there is no money back here

Why are illegal casinos possible in Germany?

The providers typically operate with licenses from abroad. Licenses from Malta , Great Britain, Gibraltar, Curacao or the Virgin Islands are widespread. The casino operators often refer to international law or the freedom of establishment of companies in the EU (provided the casino is licensed in an EU member state).

According to this, companies from any EU member state are allowed to operate throughout the EU. According to this legal opinion represented by the casinos, national restrictions on market access for casino operators would not be compatible with EU law.

The German and European jurisprudence, however, see this differently. The Federal Court of Justice (BGH) referred to a CJEU judgment from 2010. At the time, the ECJ ruled that it was up to the national courts to examine restrictive measures in the area of gambling. Accordingly, the German ban on online gambling is compatible with European law.

Court ruling: Malta Casino has to repay money

The district court of Giessen sentenced an online casino on January 31, 2021 to repay stakes amounting to just under EUR 12,000. This judgment is considered to be the first nationwide in which all open legal questions were discussed following an oral hearing. The court assumes that the player's participation in unauthorized gambling does not prevent reclamation. (Ref. 4 O 84/20).

The ruling is widely quoted and is considered the basis for the optimistic stance of many lawyers with regard to claims for compensation from players. However, it is by no means the only judgment that provides for such compensation. Numerous other courts have ruled similarly recently – and more are likely to follow. Thus, the first successes are given to get money back in online casinos.

Other current court rulings

Casino-Money-Back

There are a number of other court rulings that have awarded players compensation from online casinos. It was almost always about foreign online casinos where German customers lost money.

  • The Aachen Regional Court ruled against a casino from Gibraltar on July 13, 2021 and ordered it to repay EUR 21,735. A player suffered this loss. At the time, the casino did not have a license to play games of chance in Germany. The court saw it as a violation of the State Treaty on Gambling and declared the contracts between the casino and the customer null and void. (Ref. 8 O 582/20)
  • Once again, the Aachen Regional Court ruled in favor of a player on October 28, 2021 and awarded him compensation of EUR 178,000. The court emphasized that it was illegal online gambling, but that it was sometimes difficult for a layperson to recognize. In doing so, the judges referred to § 817 sentence 2 BGB. This actually provides for an exclusion of recovery claims if both parties to an illegal business violate a law. However, the court emphasized that this could positively encourage illegal operators. (Ref .: 12 O 510/20)
  • The Federal Court of Justice (BGH) ruled on July 22, 2021 in a process regarding the admissibility of gaming advertising that TV advertising for foreign providers was illegal public gaming that was not allowed to be advertised. (Az. I ZR 194/20). According to lawyers, this significantly improves the chances of consumers being recovered from losses in the online casino.
  • The Hamm Higher Regional Court ruled on November 12, 2021 that illegal operators are not entitled to payments from the players and therefore reclaiming the losses is not illegal. In the negotiated case, a player had lost almost EUR 300,000 in less than three years. In order to be able to finance the process, he had filed an application for legal aid at the regional court in Bochum, which the court refused in the first instance, although it basically saw a repayment claim on the part of the player. The OLG Hamm overturned this judgment and granted the player legal aid.

No German license = contract ineffective? Money back?

According to current case law, the following always applies: If a casino does not have a valid German license at the time of payment, the contract is retrospectively ineffective. In any case, this applies as long as players have stayed in Germany. An exception can again apply to consumers residing in Schleswig-Holstein (see above).

If this requirement is met and the payments can be proven by bank statements, credit card statements, etc., a lawsuit promises success – at least in theory.

Claiming money back: this is how it works with and without a lawyer

If you want to claim money back from an online casino, you will first have to draw up a list of the amounts deposited. To do this, it may be necessary to obtain account statements from a long time ago. There is a right to the repayment of all deposits minus payments.

Players can now make their claim with a letter to the casino. The delivery of the letter must be verifiable. As a rule, the casino will not react to this, so that legal action will be necessary after the deadline set in the letter.

If the amount of damage is less than EUR 5,000, the local courts have jurisdiction in the first instance. If the amount exceeds this threshold, the lawsuit must be brought before the regional court. Then a lawyer is required anyway.

The involvement of a lawyer is strongly recommended anyway. After all, the other side is also represented professionally. In addition, lawyers can support you in correctly collecting any ancillary claims such as interest.

Some law firms specialize in gambling

There are now a number of law firms across Germany that specialize in claims against online casinos. Players should ask in detail here against the casinos from which countries the law firms have already enforced claims.

Some law firms may only specialize in casinos based in the EU. However, anyone who has lost money at a casino in Curacao may need different expertise to actually enforce the claim.

Complain with litigation financiers without any cost risk

In general, every lawsuit is associated with a cost risk. Plaintiffs have to pay court and attorney fees – and if the outcome of the proceedings is unfavorable, they are left with them. Legal protection insurance usually does not cover the costs of lawsuits against online casinos. A possible alternative to a conventional lawsuit for your own account is therefore a lawsuit against a litigation financier.

Litigation financiers assume the entire cost of a promising lawsuit. Plaintiffs do not have to pay court or attorney fees – regardless of the outcome of the proceedings. Other costs such as fees for experts are also borne by the legal financial service providers. In return, if the outcome is successful, the providers receive part of the awarded damages. 10 – 30% is common in online casinos.

In order for a litigation financier to accept a case, certain requirements must usually be met. Often the providers only take on lawsuits against online casinos based in the EU (e.g. Malta). In addition, there must be a certain amount in dispute – from around EUR 10,000 and up. Last but not least, meaningful evidence, such as account statements, about the payments made must be available.

Which limitation periods apply?

In Germany, a three-year limitation period is very likely to be expected. If a player suffered losses in 2018, claims from the year will expire at the turn of the year 2021/2022. So you can't get any money back afterwards.

Some lawyers are of the opinion that the point in time when knowledge about the illegality of the online casino is decisive (e.g. the OLG Hamm). Accordingly, the limitation period would only begin at the point in time at which it became known. In this way, players could make claims retrospectively for up to ten years.

In other countries the limitation periods are more generous. In Austria, for example, players can claim back losses in online casinos for up to 30 years. The Supreme Court (OGH) has strengthened the right to such repayment several times in the current year. Among other things, the rulings have resulted in larger providers withdrawing from the Austrian market.

Are there any future claims for repayment?

Since the State Treaty on Gaming came into force on July 1, 2021, online casinos have been legal in Germany, provided that the responsible authorities have issued a license. Anyone who plays at domestically licensed casinos should generally not be able to claim a refund.

Exceptions, however, cannot be ruled out. Reclamation could be possible if the operators of the casino do not comply with the regulatory requirements of the State Treaty on Gambling. These provide, for example, a monthly deposit limit of 1000 EUR. If a German online casino would accept higher deposits, this could justify repayment claims.

This also applies if a player is noted in the central OASIS lock file and a German casino still allows him to take part in the game of chance.

Payment service providers can also be liable for damages

Payment service providers such as PayPal can in principle also be liable for damages and you can get your money back. In any case, the Ulm Regional Court ruled on December 16, 2019 that PayPal had to reimburse an injured casino player for his stakes (Az. 4 O 202/18 ).

He had deposited money in an online casino through the service. By executing the payment, the judges believe that PayPal has violated the State Treaty on Gambling. The company should have realized that the payee was operating an illegal game of chance and was not allowed to make the payment.

In this regard, however, the case law has so far been less clear. Therefore it is more difficult and associated with greater uncertainty to assert a claim against credit card companies, wallet operators, etc.

Case law still inconsistent

Money Back

Some courts have ruled in favor of payment service providers. For example, the Hamburg Regional Court on 3.1.2020 (AZ .: 330 O. 111/19). The court was unable to determine any inspection obligations for credit card providers in the case of illegal online gambling. The judges dismissed a player's complaint and ordered him to pay the costs. In the present case, a player made deposits of more than EUR 105,000 in an online casino using a credit card and had no chance of getting his money back.

However, the Hamburg judges saw no claim for compensation and in particular no possibility for the plaintiff to derive such a claim because of the breach of an ancillary obligation from the credit card contract. If the payee submits proper debit receipts, the credit card company may redeem payments without further checking whether there is an effective claim against the cardholder. The Hamburg judges also referred to a BGH judgment (from September 24, 2002 – XI ZR 420/01)

The Bonn Regional Court ruled differently on February 14, 2020 (Az: 2 O 111/19). The court sentenced a bank to pay almost EUR 5,500 plus interest because it had enabled deposits to be made at various online casinos using a credit card. The bank alleged that it had no knowledge of illegal gambling.

The court did not want to follow this and saw in the payment a legal abuse of the bank by the contracting company. The bank is therefore obliged to refuse to pay due to the existing agency agreement with the cardholder.

Conclusion

Anyone who lost money in online casinos before July 1, 2021 can claim this money back. As a rule, the money was lost with unlicensed providers – it is therefore illegal gambling. This also applies to deposits made after July 1, 2021 if they were made at online casinos without a German license.

Exceptions can apply to consumers residing in Schleswig-Holstein. Gambling has been legal here for a long time – and there is usually no right to compensation from casinos licensed by local authorities. So you don't get any money back there.

Several courts have already ruled that there is no contractual basis for illegal gambling and that any money deposited must be reimbursed. Players can file a lawsuit themselves, but should then expect not inconsiderable expenses for court and legal fees. There are now a number of litigation cost financiers who work on a commission basis. There you can claim your money back in online casinos without having to pay in advance yourself.

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