Unibet One of Two Gaming Providers in the Netherlands Forced to Refund Gamblers

Estimated read time 3 min read

The Netherlands’ judicial system is the latest to hold unlicensed online gaming operators accountable to their users. A court judge has ordered two companies to refund gamblers because they operated in the country illegally.

Parliament across the water at the Hague, Netherlands. Dutch lawyers want the government to pressure Malta to reverse Bill 55 and its gaming operator protections. (Image: Good Free Photos)

Before October 2021, online gambling was illegal in the Netherlands. Despite this, some online gambling companies that didn’t have a license from the Dutch Gaming Authority were nevertheless active in the country.

This happened not only in the Netherlands, but also in countries such as Germany and Austria. Various proceedings have been conducted against these gambling companies in recent years, and German and Austrian gamblers have already been able to reclaim millions. Now, for the first time, a Dutch judge has convicted the companies.

Tip of the Iceberg

The two gambling companies that were convicted, Kindred-owned Unibet and another unidentified company, didn’t appear in court to defend themselves. The judge’s ruling was, therefore, made without the companies having responded to the complaint.

Lawyers for the gamblers argue that if a company acts contrary to the law, it has no right to the money earned. A Dutch judge agreed with the logic and ordered the two gambling companies in absentia to repay a total of €93,000 and €124,000 (US$99,863 and $133,151), respectively.

Although it didn’t initially speak up, Unibet has now announced that it will oppose the ruling, which will send the case back to court. Until then, the verdict remains valid, and the company is responsible for fulfilling the court order.

This doesn’t bode well for gaming operators who were active in the Netherlands without a license. In Germany and Austria, similar lawsuits with the same arguments have led to huge payouts.

Between the two countries, there have been almost 7,000 court cases, and virtually none have ruled in favor of the operators. So far, tens of millions of dollars have been recovered from the companies through the courts’ verdicts.

Because these are judgments rendered in absentia, the cases don’t constitute case law for future court cases in which a defense is presented. In other words, others who lost money gambling online before October 2021 can refer to these judgments if they file a lawsuit themselves.

Previous studies have suggested that Dutch gamblers may have spent as much as €500 million (US$536.9 million) gambling on unlicensed platforms. If those gamblers were to come forward and submit verifiable claims, some gaming operators could be put out of business.

Unibet Pays Big For Dutch Presence

This isn’t the first time Unibet has run into trouble for offering online gaming services in the Netherlands. Kansspelautoriteit, the country’s gaming regulator, imposed a fine of €470,000 (US$504,686) on Unibet’s parent company, the Kindred subsidiary Trannel International Limited, in 2019.

The regulator said at the time that the gambling services on unibet.eu specifically targeted Dutch consumers. This was evident from the payment option via the eCommerce payment system iDEAL and a Dutch language chat service.

Also used as evidence were the terms and conditions. These included a list of countries whose residents were excluded from participation, but the Netherlands was not among them.

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