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Dutch state-owned sports betting company Toto is currently embroiled in a legal battle as players allege they haven’t received their full winnings.

According to the Dutch broadcaster NOS, the case is being heard today (22 September) in The Hague and centres around a Danish cup match from the previous year.

The players managed to win nearly €26,000 from that single match, but Toto withheld most of their winnings.

Allegations of targeted restrictions

The media outlet reports that the players are convinced that betting providers are actively targeting them because they are winning too much.

They highlighted that online accounts with Toto and BetCity, among others, were blocked, and betting limits for consistently winning players are enforced at BetCity.

Entain-owned BetCity does not deny this practice and claims it is part of “risk management,” which encompasses various aspects, from addressing gambling addiction to preventing money laundering.

However, to bypass online restrictions, the four gamblers behind the lawsuit turned to the only available option in the Netherlands for anonymous betting: Toto retail shops.

These shops, often found in tobacco stores or supermarkets, have been authorised by Toto to accept bets.

In early August 2022, the four gamblers placed bets ranging from €200 to €250.

Most of these bets were based on the victory of the Danish first division club HB Køge over a second division club. Depending on the exact time of their bets, Toto promised payouts of 6x or 7x the initial stake.

Disputed winnings

On that evening, Køge indeed emerged victorious, but Toto is refusing to pay out most of the thousands of euros the players should have won, citing a supposed business error.

According to Toto, the odds of 6x or 7x were a clear mistake because Køge plays in a higher division, and the potential winnings should have been much lower.

Toto argues that the gamblers were trying to exploit a mistake they knew was too good to be true.

Through the courts, the gamblers hope to establish their rights and shed light on what they claim is arbitrary treatment. “You simply aren’t meant to win with these companies,” NOS quoted Cupido van den Berg, one of the plaintiffs, as saying.

To underscore this point, he references a recording made by a tobacco shop owner last year during a conversation with two Toto representatives, which the media outlet claimed to have listened to.

In the audio, the shop owners were confronted with the fact that their branch cost Toto over €100,000 annually due to winning players.

One of the Toto officials told the shopkeepers: “We are not happy with a customer who costs so much. You wouldn’t be either. If you had a particular item in your business that cost you over €100,000, you would say: ‘Well, no, don’t do that.'”

While the Dutch gambling regulator KSA has not commented on the specific lawsuit against Toto, it stated that existing laws and regulations do not explicitly prohibit limiting the bets of winning players or excluding them.

However, the regulator considers these practices “undesirable”.

The Netherlands Gaming Authority (KSA) has sent a warning letter to all licensed operators, urging them not to provide cashback bonus offers to customers.

The authority said cashback bonuses, through which players get back part of their losses, are prohibited in the Netherlands as they encourage players to take more risks.

Moreover, cashback bonuses have a stimulating effect on gamblers that can lead to “excessive participation”, according to the regulator.

Players receiving cashback bonuses would be likely to take more risks by playing with higher bets or playing more often, the KSA said.

The regulator considers player bonuses as an advertising activity, and therefore the general rules regarding advertising activities also apply to bonuses.

According to the law, adverts may not encourage immoderate gaming behaviour, and the KSA is of the opinion that this is the case with cashback bonuses.

“If online providers do not immediately stop providing cashback bonuses, they risk enforcement action by the KSA,” the authority said.

iGaming NEXT understands that operators must end cashback offers by no later than 5 December.

The clampdown on cashback bonuses comes just a few days after the regulator slapped local operator Toto with a €400k fine for marketing directly to young adults aged between 18 and 23.

The Netherlands Gaming Authority (KSA) has slapped domestic online gambling operator Toto with a €400k fine for marketing directly to young adults aged between 18 and 23.

The KSA discovered that Toto had targeted advertising at a socially vulnerable group – in this scenario young adults – which is prohibited by the country’s online gambling regulations.

Toto was one of the first licensed companies to go live when the regulated Netherlands market re-launched on 1 October 2021.

Between that date and 31 January 2022, Toto sent general commercial messages to all consenting players in its database without excluding the ‘young adults’ category.

The marketing material was sent via both email and directly via the Toto mobile app in the form of push notifications.

Some emails included bonus offers, which is a violation of the Netherlands’ Remote Gambling Act (KOA). The violation ended on 1 February 2022, according to the KSA.

One Toto customer classed as a young adult received three emails in less than four months.

KSA chair René Jansen: “The brains of young people are still developing. As a result, they are extra vulnerable to developing gambling addiction.”

KSA chairman René Jansen said: “The law says that vulnerable groups, including young adults, must be given extra protection.

“The brains of young people are still developing. As a result, they are extra vulnerable to developing gambling addiction.

“Gaming providers must fully respect the rules intended to protect vulnerable groups. That didn’t happen here and that’s why we have imposed this fine,” he added.

In response Toto, via its lawyers, said the fine was not proportionate because the regulation is unclear and that the regulator’s report “partly constitutes an incorrect representation of the alleged facts”.

Nonetheless, Toto accepted the KSA’s decision.

In a statement provided to casinonieuws.nl, Toto said: “When the online gambling market opened on 1 October 2021, there was uncertainty in this new market about the exact interpretation of the new laws and regulations.

“Toto does everything it can to comply with strict laws and regulations and even takes far-reaching measures in addition to the legal rules.”