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Flutter, 888 contest Austrian court order to refund customers

Flutter gambling news

In the aftermath of Austria’s Supreme Court ruling which declared 888 and Flutter’s gambling websites illegal, punters in the country are trying to recover their money spent betting on the sites.

The companies were accused of violating the federal gambling monopoly held by Casinos Austria since 2016. Since then, the country’s three highest courts have sought to invalidate and penalise unlicensed operators.

In spite of this, several gambling companies continue to offer their services in Austria, resulting in a significant number of payouts after court cases. According to reports, over 2,500 gamblers were reimbursed after court rulings and out-of-court settlements in January alone. The amount totaled €75.8 million.

Around €34 million out of the sum has not been refunded and has exceeded the fortnight grace period the court gave. The websites behind this are owned by 888 and Flutter, who argued against the gambling monopoly in Austria. According to the firms, the policy violates the European Union’s legal principles.

Flutter-owned PokerStars has paid only €1,795 out of its required €17 million, while Mr Green, owned by 888, has not paid any part of the €12.6 million. William Hill, also owned by 888, still owes around two-thirds of the €6.7 million demanded by the court.

PokerStars argued that its gambling operations in the country were legal because it held a license from Malta that was “in accordance with the freedom of services across member states under EU law”. The company further asserted that the court rulings were “incompatible with these settled EU legal principles”.

The legal team representing Flutter also claimed that PokerStars’ form of gambling – online poker, where players bet against each other and not the house – meant the firm was not to be held accountable for the players’ losses.

Entain, the owner of Ladbrokes, has reimbursed all judgments, which amounted to €41 million. There is still around €61 million worth of claims against gambling companies yet to be resolved by the court.

Attorneys for the gamblers suing the betting companies previously claimed that a number of the firms had neglected to adhere to the anti money laundering and consumer protection regulations.

In a letter to 888 chair Lord Jonathan Mendelsohn earlier this year, Sven Thorstensen, an attorney working with AdvoFin, mentioned a case where a customer lost around €311,000 while placing bets on Mr Green. He claimed there was no point that the company reached out to the gambler to inquire about the source of the funds or if they could bear the considerable loss.

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