Online poker remains illegal in Australia, even as it finds a legitimate place in many developed countries. Because of its status, however, two men and a company face serious fines for offering online cardrooms.
The game of poker has had a difficult legal past, due mostly to the inability of some in positions of authority to understand the game. After online cardrooms began appearing in 1998, it seemed as though, perhaps, education had caught up. That wasn’t the case, though, as poker’s Black Friday in 2011 in the US proved.
While online poker is making a return to the US, France, Spain and other countries, Australia isn’t there yet. The Interactive Gambling Act 2001 (IGA) prohibits online cardrooms, but a trio of Aussies ignored the rules. They’ll now be held accountable for their actions and face million-dollar fines.
The House of Cards Collapses
The Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) announced that it is going after two individuals and one company for violating anti-online poker regulations. Rhys Edward Jones allegedly ran a site from March 2020 to March 2021. A company known as Diverse Link launched its platform when Jones ended his run and is reportedly still operating today. Brenton Lee Buttigieg is in trouble for promoting both of the operations.
The ACMA explains that, after launching a “detailed” investigation, it identified PPPFish as a website that was illegally offering poker. This company later became Shuffle Gaming before changing its name again to Redraw Poker.
Players were able to join using various downloadable apps and could purchase chips through bank transfers or cryptocurrency. Conversely, players could withdraw funds using the same methods.
A thread on Reddit from a few years ago describes PPPFish as a “well trusted (sic) group of clubs working together within Australia…” At one point, there may have been over 15 active clubs, according to a poster using the nickname PPPFish. Today, there are still international organizations with ties to PPPFish.
The operation wasn’t only in Australia, however. The poster added that there were similar setups in Brazil, Israel, India and the US. Redraw Poker, the third iteration of the platform, is still live and describes itself as a “global poker union.” It still has ties to the PPPFish name – its download instructions reference an app named PPPoker.
Time to Pay the Piper
The ACMA is hitting Jones, Diverse Link and Buttigieg with civil penalties for having violated the IGA. Their willingness to break the law comes at a hefty cost, as the fines are substantial.
Each violation carries a penalty of AU$1.665 million (US$1.195 million) per individual. For a company, such as Diverse Link, it’s five times as much.
The regulator already submitted its claims to Australia’s Federal Court, which will now proceed to try to enforce them. It didn’t specify how many violations it included, but, if PPPFish had more than one club operating in Australia, the amount could be astronomical.
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