Australia’s communications watchdog, the Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA), has commenced civil penalty proceedings against two well-known local poker identities for allegedly running illegal online poker services in contravention of the Interactive Gambling Act 2001 (IGA).
According to information released by ACMA on Tuesday, the men in question are named as Rhys Edward Jones, who is alleged to have provided prohibited online gambling services to Australians from March 2020 to March 2021, and Brenton Lee Buttigieg, who was allegedly involved in promoting and referring customers to those services.
A company called Diverse Link Pty Ltd was also named as having provided those services since March 2021.
ACMA said it had launched action following a detailed investigation into the prohibited online gambling services, which originally operated under the name “PPPfish” before rebranding to “Shuffle Gaming” and then “Redraw Poker”. It is alleged that these were real-money online poker services currently prohibited under section 5 of the IGA.
“ACMA alleges that, since 2 March 2020, the services provided by Jones and then Diverse Link offered Australians the ability to play poker online for money,” the regulator said.
“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.”
The legal action comes amid moves by some business and lobby groups to legalize online poker in Australia.
It is currently illegal to offer online poker or casino services to Australian under the IGA, although such activity has only been fully enforced since 2016 when the government passed the Interactive Gambling Amendment Bill, which substantially increased the penalties and enforcement actions available to ACMA.
The maximum penalties payable by individuals found to have contravened the IGA is AU$1.67 million (US$1.2 million) per contravention, while companies can be liable for up to five times that amount.