ACMA Launches Legal Proceedings Against Two Australians

The ACMA has commenced legal proceedings against two Australians who stand accused of providing online poker services in Australia.

The Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) has commenced civil penalty proceedings against two Australian men. The Federal Court is hearing the matter and both men face fines up to $1,665,000. That fine can increase to as much as $8,325,000 for a company the ACMA finds in contravention of the Interactive Gambling Act 2001 (IGA).

Rhys Edward Jones and Brenton Lee Buttigieg are the named individuals on the court documents. Diverse Link Pty Ltd is the company named alongside the two defendants. The latter could be in line for an $8,325,000 fine.

The ACMA alleges Jones provided prohibited online gambling services to Australians between March 2020 and March 2021. A detailed investigation shows Jones created an online poker app named “PPPfish.” This later rebranded to “Shuffle Gaming” and later “Redraw Poker.” The AMCA alleges these sites were online poker services operating in Australia, something prohibited by the IGA.

Diverse Link operated the sites from March 2021 to present. It offers online poker services via a mobile app. Players join the various poker clubs on the app and purchase chips from separate websites using bank transfers and bitcoin. Furthermore, they have the ability to cash out using the same methods.

Buttigieg stands accused of having involvement in promoting and referring customers to Redraw Poker.

ACMA Continues Its Strict Stance

The ACMA formed in July 2005 and is responsible for regulating Australian media and communications. It has authority over telecommunications, broadcasting, radio, in addition to the internet. The regulator is infamous for ruling with an iron fist. In addition, it is the only regulator in the world to actively block gambling sites from its country’s residents.

ACMA hit the headlines for the wrong reasons in 2009 when a list of banned URLs leaked to WikiLeaks. The leak contained 2,395 sites, but the regulator denied this was their actual list. Some URLs deserved banning but others included a Christian site, a tour operator, and even a Queensland dentist.

Recently, the regulator has taken to forcing Internet Service Providers (ISP) to block some gambling sites, including Betfair.

February 2022 saw ACMA fine Aussie sports betting firm Sportsbet a record $3.7 million for breaching spam laws. Sportsbet sent 150,000 unwanted emails and text messages to customers who attempted to unsubscribe. Sportsbet apologised to the impacted customers and blamed technical and system failures for the spam.

What Is The Poker App Falling Foul Of the IGA?

Redraw Poker, which is an active website, is one of the thousands of poker clubs PPPoker powers. AceKing Tech Limited developed PPPoker and launched it in 2015. They use the slogan “For Poker Lover by Poker Lovers.”

PPPoker initially offered services to Asian markets but quickly spread globally. Major outlets, such as Poker Bros, jumped onboard the client. There is no specific operator organising games or guaranteeing payments.

The sites on PPPoker bill themselves as play money sites with no money won or lost at the tables. This fact makes them legal in countries where online poker is not permitted. However, that only tells part of the story because money does change hands. Players join clubs and purchase in-game currency, which is given to players with a set chip value. The club owners charge a small rake for being the host, and they settle accounts weekly. This is where the grey area comes in. While the platform does not support real money poker, real money changes hands.

The app is available on iOS and Android-powered devices via the Apple App Store and Google Play Store. This means the app is tested for security vulnerabilities and is safe to use.

The ACMA opted not to comment on the ongoing case now that it is a matter for the courts. Both defendants are not answering public questions either.