Advofin Targets Austrian Online Gambling Sites’ Winnings
Austrian legal advocacy firm Advofin issued a callout to online casino bettors and poker players who’ve lost €3,000 or more at a site. Advofin would represent those players in a lawsuit to win back their lost money. Online gaming operators view the plan as a “legal shakedown”.
Advofin plans to take cases of lost bankroll dating back all the way to January 1, 2013. Any of the country’s online gamblers and poker players who have lost as much as 3,000 euros with any single operator over the last year and a half can choose to be part of the lawsuits.
The majority of the European Union’s online-gambling operators refer to the Advofin cases as a legal shakedown. They say gamblers want to re-litigate their losses in an attempt to receive full refunds for those involved.
It might be, but it’s more likely an attempt to drive out gaming operators from the Austrian market altogether. A series of recent cases suggest that is the underlying motive.
Advofin’s Case against Gambling
Outside of the state lottery, Advofin claims that all other online-gambling services offered to Austria residents was done illegally. Advofin’s plan is to assist by pursuing settlements from EU-based companies.
If that does not work out, the advocacy firm plans to win court-ordered judgments through the Austrian court system. Advofin plans to team up with third-party legal firms and promises to file all claims as class actions.
Advofin says that it will collect, “A 37% stake in the process proceeds for assuming the process risk and financing all costs. In the case of an out-of-court settlement (before filing a claim), the shareholding ratio is reduced to just 19%.”
Cases Dating Back to 2013
Advofin said they will be even going to the extent of pursuing refunds from losses that date back to as far as January 1. 2013. Online casinos, online poker, synthetic lottos and others are all included. The only exception is sports betting.
Despite all of Advofin’s legal manueverings, the chances of such cases being successful are minial. Thanks to the European Commission‘s 2017 decision to end adjudication of EU-based online gambling disputes, Advofin’s moves were expected or even predicted by many.
EU Gaming Lawsuits
All of the targeted operators are legally based within the EU. However, Advofin claims that the sites are still illegal in both Austria and Germany. If Advofin finds success in Austria, the advocacy group might challenge cases in Germany next.
Advofin naturally is going after the big targets. Advofin allegedly managed to place at Austria’s Kurier, “The process financier is not only targeting the well-known big players in the industry: bwin , Interwetten, Mr. Green, bet365, bet-at-home, 888 Holdings and Unibet. So are providers such as Progress Player with 51 online casinos and Aspire Global, a provider of gaming software, which operates 13 online casinos.”
“We offer all those injured by their gambling activities at Austria has suffered a loss for illegal online casinos, the opportunity to reclaim their losses in a cost and risk-free manner. We have some bad [luck] underneath, they lost a few thousand euros every day,” said Gerhard Wuest, CEO of Advofin.
According to a claim by one of Advofin’s lawyers, Sven Thorstensen, one of the online companies have already paid back some of those losses to the amounts of 10,000 to 100,000 euros in out-of-court settlements. These claims published in Kurier held no supporting evidence, so whether it is true or not is still in question.
Austria’s Chronik Magazine
Austria’s Chronik (“Chronicle”) wrote on the case, stating, “Authorities powerless against gambling mafia: imprisonment required.”
The actual text never makes claims about imprisonment, but The Chronik piece lays out what Advofin’s plan might looks like.
Chronik stated, “The players are proven to play in Austria. We can prove that with the Internet Protocol addresses. There is another electronic track. The player usually buys these game packages via well-known payment service providers. We can use the evidence to prove how much a player has lost. That’s enough to sue in front of an Austrian court. Austria is thus the crime scene.”
Austrian Gambling Laws
Austria does not agree with that. Austria allows businesses legal protection for the freedom to provide services. In other words, player protection stands for freedom to provide services. Without an Austrian gambling license, the game offer that the Austrian enters into in a contract with the online casino is thus void, that is to say invalid.
“Since internet casinos usually have no seat in Austria, they could ignore the AdvoFin lawsuits. Then a default judgment will be issued that can be executed in any EU country. We also look at where the operators are in Austria have accounts that we can block in court; this includes their accounts with financial services providers.”
The outcome of Advofin’s plan will be closely watched across the EU. Though some operators may end up in a settlement it seems as though total success for the advocacy group does not look too promising. Even if many may not end up paying into the lawsuit, many operators may decide against serving any Austrian gamblers for the time being. At least until Advofin moves onto the next legal shakedown.
This lawsuit does not included any losses with Austria’s own state-licensed lottery, win2day.at.