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The highest German state court has ordered PokerStars to pay up €58k in pre-treaty losses

The highest court in the state of Nordrhein-Westfalen, the Koln Higher Regional Court, has determined that Pokerstars must reimburse a player's losses because internet gambling was illegal in the state at the time the losses happened.

In addition, the decision of the Cologne Higher Regional Court reversed a lower court ruling that had been confirmed by the Bonn Regional Court. The law firm Dr. Redell Rechtsanwaltsgesellschaft, who represented the player, stated that such rulings by the Bonn Regional Court "should no longer be made."

In May 2021, the Euskirchen District Court dismissed a player reimbursement complaint, which may have been the ruling that was reversed. This also involved a Maltese company that was operating in Germany. In December of that same year, the Bonn Regional Court upheld the dismissal. The ruling was the first of its kind delivered by a German regional court at the time.

The complainant lost €58,517 between March 2014 and June 2020 while playing poker and blackjack on the website. Before the Fourth State Treaty on Gambling (GlüNeuRStV) became into effect, slot machines and poker could be sold across Germany, not just in Schleswig-Holstein.

Not properly informed on online casino legality

Even if the player could have been judged to have broken the law, the law company stated that their complaint was still valid.

The court stated that Pokerstars had not made it apparent that online casino games were prohibited in the majority of Germany, which meant that the plaintiff was not fully informed.

“Contrary to the opinion of the regional court, this information provided by the plaintiff is not unrealistic from the outset, but rather understandable,” said the court. “From the plaintiff’s point of view, there were no compelling indications that spoke for the illegality of the defendant’s range of games.”

In addition, the court ruled that the fact that the Pokerstars website was displayed in German conveyed the appearance that the business was lawful.

“There was no evidence that online gambling was illegal in Germany – with the exception of a limited offer in Schleswig-Holstein. Rather, the German-language website and the German-language customer service gave the impression of legality,” the court said.

Dr. Redell Rechtsanwaltsgesellschaft explained that the Koln Higher Regional Court is the highest court of appeal in Nordrhein-Westfalen and the second-highest in Germany. This would imply that any more appeals of this case would have to be heard at the federal level.

The Frankfurt Higher Regional Court ordered an unidentified operator to pay €26,000 in losses earlier this year since the plaintiff had gambled with the operator before the GlüNeuRStV went into effect.



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