Alleged Online Poker Operators In Australia Face Huge Fines

April 26, 2022
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Australia’s national online gambling regulator has launched a civil lawsuit against two men and a company in Queensland state for providing online poker services in Australia, with potential fines running into the millions of dollars.

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Australia’s national online gambling regulator has launched a civil lawsuit against two men and a company in Queensland state for providing online poker services in Australia, with potential fines running into the millions of dollars.

The Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) said in a statement on Tuesday (April 26) that the men face penalties in Federal Court of up to A$1.665m ($1.2m) per day for breaches of the Interactive Gambling Act 2001, while the company faces a maximum penalty of five times that amount.

The ACMA alleges that poker identity Rhys Edward Jones illegally provided online poker services to Australian residents between March 2020 and March 2021, and that associated company Diverse Link Pty Ltd has provided such services from March 2021 to the present day.

The ACMA also alleges that a second man, card player Brenton Lee Buttigieg, was “involved in promoting and referring customers to those services”.

The authority’s unusual prosecution of individual gambling actors follows a probe into the poker network that “originally operated under the name ‘PPPfish’, but subsequently rebranded to ‘Shuffle Gaming’ and later ‘Redraw Poker’”, the statement said.

It alleges that “services provided by Jones and then Diverse Link offered Australians the ability to play poker online for money”.

“Players join poker clubs through a mobile app, can then purchase chips from separate websites, via bank transfer or bitcoin, which are then credited to their account in the poker club and can be used to play poker.

“Chips can then be redeemed for money or bitcoin.”

A membership-based website named Redraw Poker remains online. Although it does not feature identifiable operator, address or other location details on its landing pages, it offers customers numerous daily tournament options that are scheduled according to Australia’s east coast time zone.

Offences committed under Section 15(2A) of the Interactive Gambling Act — providing illegal online gambling services to Australian residents — attract a maximum daily fine of 7,500 penalty units at the current rate of A$222 per unit, or A$1.665m.

However, potential exists for a much more devastating penalty for the defendants given that offences under Section 15(2A) accrue on a daily basis.

Federal Court website data indicates that the ACMA submitted a concise statement for the case on April 19 to the court’s Queensland state registry, but that a hearing has yet to be scheduled.

Online poker has a dedicated following in Australia, but this did not sway lawmakers from including poker among proscribed casino-type games when updating the Interactive Gambling Act in 2017.

Despite lawmaker sympathy and the possibility of a Senate review of poker’s legality after implementation of the National Consumer Protection Framework for online gambling, the federal parliament’s ban on online poker products has held firm.

The national framework, which includes protections on advertising, credit restrictions and self-exclusion registers, has been introduced in a slow and staggered fashion across Australia’s states and territories and has yet to be fully implemented.

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