The Regional Court of Wiener Neustadt in Austria ordered Novomatic to pay an unnamed problem gambler €2.5 million in compensation for his problem gambling. Novomatic must pay the amount the plaintiff bet on slot machines, plus interest on his loses.
Austria has taken a more hardline stance on gambling in the past few years — especially on slot machines. The Austrian parliament passed the Viennese Events Act in late 2014, which was enforced throughout the country beginning January 1, 2015.
The Viennese Events Act was designed to eliminate most forms of gambling outside Austrian casinos. In particular, the law was designed to eliminate slot machine gambling in the city of Vienna — which had many small betting shops.
At the time, Austria had 2,600 slot machines located in gas stations and small shops throughout the country, with about 1,500 of them located in Vienna alone.
Novomatic Fined by Regional Court
The novel part of the ruling is the fact the court did not find that Novomatic, Austria’s most famous and successful gaming company, did not know about the player’s gambling addiction. Instead, the Wiener Neustadt court found that the fact that plaintiff was a problem gambler was enough for Novomatic to owe damages.
In most cases where a gaming company is required to pay damages, the plaintiff must prove some manner of predatory behavior. Several UK cases showed gaming operators who continued to market to players, even after the players showed signs (or voiced concerns) about problem gambling.
Ladbrokes Case with Problem Gambler
Several other cases involved the casino or online gaming site not vetting the player’s background thoroughly. For instance, a player would apply for casino credit with sparse credentials, then run up a debt far in excess of their means of repayment.
The Austrian case involving Novomatic shows no signs of such malfeasance, though, as in the case of a famous Ladbrokes case, the gaming operator should have known the player suffered from compulsive gambling. Operators in such cases claim they believed they were dealing with a high roller who could afford such losses. Once again, the vetting process is key — and a part of a casino operator’s due diligence.
Novomatic’s High Roller Slot Machines
Novomatic’s machines were ruled to have violated Austrian law, though. Austria has laws against high stakes gambling, so the gaming machines the plaintiff used “violete the regulations” in multiple ways.
From 2002 to 2012, the unnamed gambler lost €2 million on Novomatic slot machines. The plaintiff’s suit claimed he lost the money due to “partial incapacitation” — meaning he “could not resist” the tempation to play. The plaintiff was unable to work due to his problem gambling habit, which is why he filed the lawsuit in the first place.
2014 Novomatic Lawsuit for €440,000
This is the second high-profile case for Novomatic in the past four years. In 2014, Novomatic was ordered to pay €440,000 when another problem gambler filed suit. In that case, the plaintiff was not held liable for his actions, so his “gaming contracts” with Novomatic were ruled invalid.
Novomatic Funds Problem Gambling Research
Ironically, Novomatic has developed a reputation as a backer of problem gambling research. Since 2006, Novomatic has funded addiction research and therapy resources through donations to the Medical University of Vienna.
As recently as August 2018, Novomatic pledged an additional €120,000 over a 2-year period in funding for the Medical University’s. Gabriele Fischer, a professor at the university, told LCB News that “part of the research projects is only possible because of the co-financing of private sponsors.”
Fischer added, “Novomatic has been making a substantial contribution for years to support independent research work.”
Novomatic Plans to Appeal Decision
Dr. Eva Glawischnig, who serves as the director of Novomatic’s Corporate Responsibility and Sustainability Group, said of her company’s commitment to problem gambling research, “Cooperation in the field of addiction prevention, science, and research form part of Novomatic’s corporate responsibility. This commitment is not limited to Austria but instead takes place in all countries in which we operate.”
Meanwhile, Novomatic’s lawyers said they would appeal the decision.