Finance

Win or not, gambler must repay 10,000 euros in assistance

This is apparent from a recent decision by the Central Appeals Board (CRvB). The municipality of Rotterdam recognizes that the law is strict, but says it must comply with it.

Holland Casino

The woman, who has been receiving social assistance benefits since 2001, had to submit her bank statements in 2019 as part of a routine investigation.

Those statements showed that between July 2018 and July 2019 she had repeatedly withdrawn amounts ranging from 10 euros to 100 euros at a Holland Casino branch and other gambling establishments. In the same periods there were also credits and deposits.

Notification obligation

The municipality deduced from this that the woman had gambled without informing the benefits agency.

Because the municipality considers gambling to be an activity aimed at generating income, social assistance claimants must report this (see box below). After such a report, the municipality can determine whether the social assistance benefits should be reduced or discontinued.

Reclaimed more than 10,000 euros

Because the Rotterdam resident had not reported the gambling, the municipality reclaimed her assistance over the months in which she had made the cash withdrawals. The municipality demanded a total of 10,888 euros from the woman.

The woman went to court to challenge the claim. After losing that case last September, she appealed to the Central Appeals Board (CRvB).

Appeal

There, the woman stated that the municipality should have let her know more clearly that she should have reported her visit to the gambling establishments. She also pointed out that the debit card withdrawals did not prove that she had gambled with that money.

However, the municipality says it finds it plausible that it has gambled, also in view of the fact that debit card payments were often made several times in quick succession.

Municipality is right

The recently made public decision shows that the Central Appeals Board has ruled in favor of the municipality. The highest administrative court finds it plausible that the woman gambled, and finds that she violated the notification obligation.

Because it is not clear whether the woman may have won money, the municipality cannot determine how much assistance she is entitled to. As a result, the municipality may reclaim the benefit for each month in which it made debit card withdrawals in the gambling establishments.

The judges do not think that the municipality should have informed the woman more clearly that she was obliged to report the gambling. This means that she actually has to repay more than 10,000 euros in social assistance.

Gambling is usually losing

The lawyer of the person entitled to social assistance, Jacqueline Nieuwstraten, is disappointed with the verdict. “It feels unfair. Most people who gamble don’t earn money with it. That is also the reason that gambling tents run so well.”

The lawyer also points out that many people do not know that you are obliged to report gambling activities on social assistance. “When you tell people at a party that people have to pay back social assistance because they have gambled, many mouths fall open in surprise because you often lose with gambling.”

To inform

According to Nieuwstraten, benefit agencies should do much more to inform people on social assistance about this. “Municipalities then say that it is ‘on the website’. But not everyone looks at it to check what the rules are about gambling when you are on welfare.”

It is not the first time that welfare recipients have had to pay back a lot of money because they gamble. A random sample by RTL Z shows that the CRvB made two other decisions in similar cases this month alone.

Taking into account the barely five months from the beginning of July, this concerns 16 judgments by the CRvB and other courts. In the vast majority of those cases, the benefits agency was proved right.

Legal obligation

The Municipality of Rotterdam points out that the recovery of social assistance is simply the result of a violation of the statutory obligation to provide information.

“Job seekers must always report their income, even if this is gambling income. If there is a suspicion that someone is gambling, the municipality can ask for an administration of the income from gambling,” explains a spokeswoman for the councilor for Work and Income Richard Moti .

“In almost all cases, the administration is missing, which means that the right to a benefit cannot be determined. As a result, a benefit may be withdrawn.”

Disproportionate

Incidentally, the municipality says it has reservations about the law. “We experience this as disproportionate. The municipality of Rotterdam believes that it would be a better rule if only the amount that is gambles is seen as income,” said the spokeswoman.

“Only that amount could then be deducted from the benefit, just like someone who works part-time and has an income. Unfortunately, the Participation Act does not offer that option.”

In welfare and gambling? Beware!

Gambling is not prohibited for people on social assistance benefits. However, people entitled to social assistance are obliged to report gambling activities to the benefits agency.

Anyone who violates this notification obligation runs the risk that the municipality will reclaim the social assistance benefit in full for the period in which the obligation was violated. Whether or not gambling actually makes a profit is irrelevant.

Lots of money

This can involve large sums of money. For example, the Central Appeals Board ruled last month that the Municipality of Rotterdam was right to reclaim amounts of EUR 10,888 and EUR 11,600 due to unreported gambling activities. In April, the administrative court gave the green light to the municipality of Enschede for a recovery of more than 33,000 euros in social assistance.

It can also lead to the gambler not being admitted to the statutory debt restructuring. If the debts have arisen as a result of wrongly received assistance, the court can refuse admission to the Debt Restructuring Natural Persons Act (WSNP).

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