In the grander scheme of things a fine of €58,000 (£50,732/US$59,780) for a company that is owned by a £20.77 billion (US$24.47bn/€23.74bn) entertainment group is little more than a proverbial piddle in the ocean.
But the sanction, imposed by the Köln Higher Regional Court, the highest court in the German state of Nordrhein-Westfalen, is more than a poke in the eye for PokerStars.
It could have the most profound and far-reaching ramifications for many an operator in newly-regulated German iGaming — beyond the ridiculous assertion that PokerStars, a vertical of the Irish-origin Flutter Entertainment group, must reimburse a player’s losses because, according to the court ruling, the online casino was not yet legal in the state at the time the said losses occurred.
Between March 2014 and June 2020, the unnamed plaintiff lost €58,517 by playing poker and blackjack on the Pokerstars.eu website.
This was before Germany’s Fourth State Treaty on Gambling came into law allowing Internet poker and slots to be played nationwide – and not just in the state of Schleswig-Holstein.
Thus the player–even though they were quite possibly breaking the law at the time–was entitled to a reimbursement of their losses, the Köln court adjudicated.
The court charged that PokerStars had not clarified on its site that (at the time) “playing online casino games was illegal in most of [the nation].”
“With the exception of a limited offer in Schleswig-Holstein, there was no evidence that online gambling was illegal in Germany,” said the court in its ruling. “Rather, the German-language website and the German-language customer service gave the impression of legality.”
Accordingly don’t be surprised if–with this gnomic legal precedent set–the German state courts are now inundated with a tsunami of similar claims from losing gamblers.
It gives new meaning to the old saying: “Having your kuchen and eating it.”