Can Online Casinos Refuse To Pay A Player’s Winnings?

Imagine you spent your pandemic months playing online casino games through a big, well- known manufacturer. You were delighted when you won big, hitting the jackpot during a round of slots. Then, the casino gave you the bad news: “Sorry, there was a bug in our system. We’re not going to pay you!” Are they legally required to pay simply because you saw the words on your computer screen? And what if there really was a bug? Aren’t they responsible for their faulty computer programming?

That’s the case before the U.S. District Court in Camden, which was filed late last year.

Yardley, Pennsylvania resident Lisa Piluso said, “I’m an experienced online player, and I was shocked when AGS officials, including the company president, told me they weren’t going to pay, even when I showed them the screenshot that I made of the $100,000 jackpot.”

She added, “They said I actually won about $300, but they then offered me $1,000, saying we were ‘nice people.’ How many other players have been in the same situation but agreed to settle for a fraction of their winnings after being told they, too, were ‘nice people?’”

CM Law representatives in New Jersey said, “It’s not unusual for online casinos to refuse to cash out winnings. Many casinos have wagering requirements, ID requirements, et cetera, but what is strange is for a reputable company to fail to pay a legitimate winner. Whoever was responsible is probably taking some heat for the ‘bug’ right now, if it’s even real.”

In this case, the New Jersey Division of Gaming Enforcement took Piluso’s concerns seriously. But a subsequent investigation found that AGS had reported a bug in their system. Deputy Attorney General Jennifer Russo-Belles wrote, “This error caused the patron(s) to believe that their bonus round winnings were higher than the actual winnings.”

AGS was fined $1,000 for failing to make the game run properly online. Attorneys for AGS failed to respond to the Associated Press when asked to comment.

Piluso’s lawsuit — which is joined by 13 other gamblers — says that the company is guilty of consumer fraud and has made other allegations. The case is still making its way through court.

What should you do when an online casino refuses to pay you? First, be sure that you provided the casino with the appropriate ID and documentation. Be able to show that you made the wagering requirement. Take screenshots of the apparent victory. Document the gaming and payment history, balance, and save any email correspondence between you and the casino. What does customer service have to say? Keep all of this communication recorded. Put everything you know in a folder. Then contact gambling commissions to find out what you can do. 

The last resort is filing a lawsuit. Although it wasn’t the case with Piluso, many “online” casinos are based outside of the United States. That means a U.S. lawyer won’t necessarily be able to take your case. It also means the process could be more expensive.