Home Gambling Industry ACMA goes after duo who hosted illegal online poker

ACMA goes after duo who hosted illegal online poker

26 Apr 2022
3 min. read

The featured logo of ACMA, an Australian regulator.

The Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) has kept busy. After initiating a list of prohibited offshore betting and casino websites, the watchdog has turned its tireless gaze on the poker community, where unlicensed activities continue to thrive despite a prohibition from the central and local governments.

This has prompted the regulator to launch two civil penalty proceedings against two established poker players and community members who ACMA claims have breached the Interactive Gambling Act 2001 by attempting to or providing poker services.

ACMA cited one Rhys Edward Jones and one Brenton Lee Buttigieg as the focus of its proceedings. Both men are said to have collaborated in providing online poker services to customers in Australia between March 2020 and March 2021. The regulator assured that its decision to launch legal proceedings was based on extensive investigation, which carefully called the evolution of a platform allegedly created by the pair.

The "PPPfish" online gambling website shortly changed its identity to "Shuffle Gaming," and underwent another rebranding in the short space of a year, to "Redraw Poker," a possible attempt to obfuscate the connection between the brands.

ACMA detailed how this worked, arguing that players were asked to use a mobile app and third-party websites in order to purchase chips through bank transfers or bitcoin. Any winning chips may be redeemed for money or bitcoin, ACMA concluded, arguing that this constitutes illegal online gambling, which is currently prohibited in Australia unless it’s conducted by a licensed party.

Australia’s watchdog has been busy of late, adding over 300 prohibited websites on its list, and often being content with just blocking access to those websites. In this case, however, ACMA is taking its regulatory control a step further by going after the alleged culprits directly.

Because of the way gambling in the country is regulated, it’s considered a grey area to participate in online poker activities as a player, even at offshore gambling websites, but running, hosting, and organizing such businesses is the basis of civil and criminal proceedings.

The Interactive Gambling Amendment Bill in 2016 was created in order to increase the penalties applicable to offenders. As a result, if Jones and Buttigieg are found guilty, they may have to pay up to AU$1.67 million or roughly $1.2 million for each offense based on the Interactive Gambling Act 2001.

Image credit: ACMA

26 Apr 2022
3 min. read