When is a gambler not on the hook for his or her losses? When they're too addicted to quit according to a recent ruling in an Austrian courtroom.
The court ordered a gambling company to repay €2.5 million ($2.85 million) in losses the man suffered over a 10-year period during which he was at the peak of a gambling addiction.
The claimant, who was not identified, dropped €2 million ($2.3 million) into slot machines in Vienna between 2002 and 2012. Novomatic, the Austrian-based company which owns the machines, was found to be on the hook for his losses.
The addict's lawyers argued that the man wasn't responsible for his actions. They brought in a psychiatric expert who testified that the gambler was at least “partially incapacitated” while “under the influence of addiction.”
The legal team claimed his addiction was so severe that it left the man unable to work.
As a result, all his bets were invalid, according to the court. Not only does the gambler get the full $2.3 million back, but the court ordered Novomatic to pay interest as well, leaving him with a $500,000 profit.
Novomatic Loses Again
As if that ruling wasn't bad enough for the gaming company, it was also found to be in contempt of Austrian laws which limit the stakes and payouts allowed on such machines.
In 2015, Austrian lawmakers implemented tough new regulations around the machines. Not only did they slap new monetary restrictions on them, but they also made it illegal for the machines to be operated outside of casinos. No longer would gamblers be tempted by them at the local gas station or corner store.
Novomatic, which is one of the biggest gaming-equipment manufacturers in the world, has claimed that the tougher regulations could affect its bottom line going forward.
However, its sales revenue soared by a reported 96.2 percent after competing a takeover of machine developer Ainsworth Game Technology in January.
The $2.8 million ruling may seem significant, but it's mere pocket change for company owner Johann Graff. He was recently listed as the 186th-richest man in the world, with a net worth of $8.1 billion.
The company has indicated that it plans to appeal the decision.
A ruling like this may be rare, but it's not without precedent.
In fact, Novomatic was on the wrong end of a similar result in 2014 when it was sued by another addicted gambler. As with the most recent case, the claimant insisted that their addiction absolved them of responsibility for the gambling debts.
The court concurred, at least partially, and awarded the gambler $501,000, which amounted of half of their losses.
More recently, British bookmaker Mark Jarvis Bet was found to be at odds with the UK's Social Responsibility Code. The company was ordered to compensate a gambler to the tune of £94,000 ($122,000) after she lost £34,000 ($44,141) playing on a fixed-odds betting terminal.
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