WPT Australia SHR winner Marley Wynter accused of $30M sports-betting Ponzi scheme

Haley Hintze Author Photo
Haley Hintze
Posted on: April 07, 2023 07:53 PDT

Australian poker player Marley Wynter, who achieved significant fame by winning the AUD $20,000 Super High Roller event at WPT Australia last September, is under siege from hundreds of Australian sports bettors and poker players who allege that Wynter operated a sports-betting investment syndicate that claims to have earned over $30 million but has failed to share profits or return investments to investors in his syndicate.

Wynter, of Brisbane, Tasmania, Australia, is reportedly under investigation by authorities in two Australian states, according to PokerMedia Australia, which recently reported on the allegations against Wynter. Besides his home state of Tasmania, according to PokerMedia Australia, officials in neighboring Queensland are also investigating Wynter's activities.

Wynter operated two business entities as part of his betting syndicate, in which he allegedly wagered on behalf of his many hundreds of investors. Wynter closed down both businesses, Marley's House of Sport and Marley's House of Investment, at the end of January 2023.

Allegations and concerns for over a year

Concerns that Wynter's sports-betting investment opportunities weren't quite on the level have circulated in Australian gambling circles for more than a year. One of the first to sound the alarm was well-known Australian poker player and sports bettor Craig Abernethy, who learned of the situation from friends who had already joined Wynter's group.

“They knew I was a successful sports bettor and thought it would be something I might be interested investing in, but after looking into it I quickly realised it didn’t add up,” Abernethy told PMA. “If you’ve got a system like he is claiming, the biggest problem winning sports bettors have is volume and the ability to put the bets down. Scaling up a sports betting system is always going to run into problems with bookies restricting accounts."

As more problems began to emerge regarding Wynter's operations, including repeated promises to issue payout to investors that were never actually honored, Abernethy launched a private Facebook group where discussion among jilted investors could take place. The group currently has nearly 400 members and the discussion has grown to include Wynter's recent hiring of a Queensland-based solicitor (attorney), Bradford Hill and his BJH Law practice.

Hill's letter (below), informs investors of Wynter's investment vehicles of Wynter's retention of legal help with the intent to "negotiate with financial institutions and legal authorities" regarding issuing refunds to bettor-investors regarding any remaining funds. Hill's letter also declares that he and Wynter will attempt to learn from those same authorities "their position" on Wynter's investment vehicles.

Hill's letter makes no mention of the Ponzi scheme allegations aired by many of his investors, including both the lofty promises of grandiose returns and claims of how earlier investors received generous payouts. Some of the most angered of Wynter's investors described Hill's letter as little more than a delaying tactic.

The Marleys House of Sport website remains active but most promotional material, like the video including the image of Wynter at right, has been deleted. "Dear clients and hopeful clients, we inform you with heavy hearts that Marley’s House of Sport is now closed for good. All remaining client account balances are in the process of being paid out," a farewell message claims. "All initial client deposits will be paid out first and foremost for those not already in profit." Whether such a distribution scheme for any remaining funds is even legal is one of the matters authorities will examine.

Gary Benson also sounds off on apparent issues

Another famous Australian gambler, Australian Poker Hall of Fame inaugural member Gary Benson, recently took to the PokerFraudAlert forum to air his own concerns about Wynter's investment enterprises. Benson's thoughts, posted from his "OzGary" PFA account, are harsh. They include the following:

"Marley has claimed to clients on numerous occasions that he has over 1000 investors all over Australia.
Some clients have shown balances increases 8x over a period of 6 months, $5k into $40k, $10k into $80k.
Marley claimed just last week a that his first big investor has increased his balance of $1 Million to over $9 Million in 7 months.

"Unfortunately without any transparency, such as evidence of bet slips or betting activity statements, these results are too good to be true, especially when you consider the amount of money that would be required to get put down with bookmakers to gain returns this high. Bookmakers also restrict winning players frequently and winning millions over periods of 7 months is not even slightly realistic or believable.

"I have contacted Marley 'Flush' John Wynter on a number of occasions via email to ask a few simple questions about MHS, however he is refusing to provide any answers, stating I'm not a member of MHS, and claiming that this is trade secrets and intellectual property.

"Marley will not provide Australian Financial Services License number, as required by ASIC for anyone dealing with financial services and investments. This is not a confidential license and leads me to believe he does not hold one.

"Marley claims that all clients have been paid out when they have requested a withdrawal, this was once a month, however now only 3 monthly, which he claims is due to expansion. This may be the case for now, but if you are an investor in MHS you need to be confident that every dollar in every balance across all of his clients is fully accounted for in his bank and betting accounts otherwise this obviously wont be the case forever.

"I have asked Marley to provide his exact number of clients and he will not provide this. I have asked Marley what he claims the sum of all client balances are, with no response. As mentioned he claims that 1 client now has over $9 million with him. I have asked Marley where all of the clients money is kept, a his personal bank accout, a business bank account, betting accounts, and if we can see all the balances, but no response.

"I have asked Marley how he can possibly get the money down with bookmakers, which bookmakers are accepting the bets, which bookmakers he has beaten for millions of dollars, and if I can see all of the bets for the last 7 months and the transactions to see the millions of dollars in profit. Also, if Marley is using betting accounts in other people's names to place bets, this involves bank accounts in other people's names which is high risk.

"I have also asked Marley about an audio message he sent to his clients requesting a $25 annual fee to cover costs of expansion. One of the costs mentioned in the audio is a new server cost of $80,000.
As an IT professional I have a few questions around that because this is not realistic. I have asked if it is an on-premise server? the specs of the server purchased? Most small to medium business on-premise servers are under $10,000. Can he provide a receipt for this server, or can he provide the supplier or IT company that he procured this server through? Where is the server located? Why does he even need a server?

"MHS runs a website which is hosted with Squarespace.com on a shared server in a datacentre in New York City. The most expensive E-Commerce plan you can purchase with Squarespace is AUD$52 per month. MHS also uses a free email service, Gmail. I cannot see any need for MHS to have server of any kind. A couple of PCs to run Office applications such as Word and Excel, perhaps a couple of graphic design programs, and internet access to cloud based hosted services such as email and a website. $80,000 is an unbelievable figure to quote for any server that I can imagine."

Sharp crash from breakthrough poker title

Wynter's quick fall from grace comes only months after the largest triumph of his poker career. Last September, at the WPT Australia stop in Brisbane, Wynter took down the series' $20,000 buy-in Super High Roller event. Wynter triumphed over a 63-entry field to win AUD $430,919.

As PokerMedia Australia noted, the big payday was nearly 100 times Wynter's previous live-tourney best, $4,500, which he's done twice. As PMA noted, Wynter wasn't even planning on playing the high-roller, but joined in once the tourney reached three tables' worth of entries.

Whether that big cash will mark the end of Wynter's live-tourney career is one of many possibilities within the current situation. Besides the Ponzi-scheme allegations, Benson's claims regarding Wynter's perceived lack of proper Australian securities licensing could result in additional adverse attention from Australian authorities. The $30 million total as claimed by alleged victims makes the situation one of the largest-ever situations involving aggrievedd investors of sports-betting syndicates.

Featured image source courtesy PokerMedia Australia