Australian court hits online club-poker operators with AU $5 million fine

Haley Hintze Author Photo
Haley Hintze
Posted on: July 25, 2023 05:21 PDT

An Australian federal court has slapped two Queensland men and a business entity with an AU $5 million fine, about US $3.38 million, for their operation of an online poker site that did business for about three years under multiple names, all in violation of strict Australian regulations that forbid both playing on or operating an online-poker business within the country.

In April 2022, the Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) filed a civil action against Rhys Edward Jones, Diverse Link Pty Ltd, and Brenton Lee Buttigieg, for the operation of a PPPoker club-and-agent poker site that began as PPPFish Australia. The club later changed its name and continued operations as Shuffle Gaming, and even later as Redraw Poker.

In the ruling, issued on Monday by Federal Court Justice David Thomas, the two men and the corporate entity were found to have violated Australia's online-poker ban by allowing players to purchase "virtual" chips in multiple ways. According to an ACMA press statement, the men and the Diverse Link entity were found to have taken in roughly AU $4.2 million through direct banking channels, and an undetermined additional sum in cryptocurrency.

Jones appears to have been the initial creator of the PPPoker club, in early 2020, while Buttegieg may have been the club's primary agent. The ACMA presser details their roles in this way:

  • Rhys Edward Jones, who provided prohibited online gambling services to Australians from March 2020 to March 2021;
  • Diverse Link Pty Ltd (Diverse Link), which provided those services from March 2021 to the present; and
  • Brenton Lee Buttigieg, who was involved in promoting and referring customers to those services.

In issuing his ruling, Justice Thomas wrote, “The process was unregulated and there were no controls and no way in which problem compulsive gamblers were assisted.”