NOS Nieuws•vandaag, 06:01
Bas de Vries
Bas de Vries
Four semi-professional gamblers have filed a lawsuit against Toto because the state-owned company only partially paid out a football bet they won. The case is being heard today in The Hague and revolves around a Danish cup match from last year. The gamblers won almost 26,000 euros on that one match, but Toto did not pay out most of it.
It is the preliminary culmination of the ongoing battle between sports betting providers and a select group of players who manage to earn money on a structural basis. Since the legalization of the Dutch online gambling market two years ago, the vast majority of accounts have been making losses: 310 euros per month per player according to supervisory authority the Gaming Authority. The gambling companies earned 1.1 billion euros from this last year.
But a limited number of players actually manage to win frequently, for example by taking advantage of the mistakes that gambling companies occasionally make when offering bets.
Winning accounts closed or curtailed
The professional gamblers with whom the NOS has recently had contact are convinced that the providers are very concerned about them. So much so that companies do everything they can to antagonize unwelcome customers. For example, online accounts at Toto and Betcity, among others, are blocked without explanation. And the bet of structurally winning players is in any case limited at Betcity. Those limits do not apply to losing accounts.
When asked, Betcity does not deny that this occurs. The company says it is done as part of “risk management”. That is a term that includes various things, from combating gambling addiction to money laundering.
Because they are excluded from online games, the four gamblers behind the lawsuit turned to the only option available in the Netherlands to place bets anonymously: the Toto shops. These are cigar shops or supermarkets that have been given permission by Toto to accept bets. The player receives a receipt as proof of his participation; identification is not necessary.
At such stores, the four gamblers bet a range of amounts from 200 to 250 euros in early August 2022. The vast majority of bets speculated on a victory for the Danish first division club HB Køge in a cup match against a second division club. Depending on the exact time they played, Toto promised a payout of 6 or 7 times the stake at that time.
Køge indeed proved to be the strongest that evening, but Toto refuses to pay out most of the thousands of euros that the players should have earned according to their receipts. In the provider’s reasoning, the so-called odds of 6 or 7 times the bet clearly involved a business error: because Køge plays in a higher division, the amount to be won should have been much lower.
Toto states that the gamblers were trying to capitalize on a blunder; a quote that they knew very well was simply “too good to be true”.
We are not happy with a customer who costs so much.
Toto employee against a shopkeeper
Through the courts, the gamblers hope to be proven right and thus also put the spotlight on the arbitrariness with which they say they are confronted. “You are simply not supposed to win at these companies,” says Cupido van den Berg, one of the plaintiffs.
To illustrate his statement, he refers to a recording that a cigar farmer made last year of a conversation with two Toto representatives; a recording that NOS listened to. The store owners are confronted with the fact that their branch costs Toto more than 100,000 euros per year due to winning players.
“We are not happy with a customer who costs so much,” one of the Toto officials told the shopkeepers. “You wouldn’t be either. If you had a certain item in the business that cost you more than 100,000 euros, you would say: ‘Well, no, don’t do that’.”
The spokesperson for the supervisory authority the Gaming Authority (Ksa) says in a response that the applicable laws and regulations do not prohibit limiting the bets of winning players or excluding these people. The Ksa considers this to be “undesirable” use of these substances, which are intended to protect gambling addicts from themselves. The Gaming Authority has not commented on the lawsuit against Toto regarding the undistributed winnings.
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