Australia’s comms authority takes legal action against ‘alleged gambling service’

The Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) has initiated legal proceedings against an ‘alleged online gambling service’ in the country’s Federal Court.

There are three defendants in the case – two individuals and a company – accused by Australia’s communications regulator of providing gambling services in violation of the Interactive Gambling Act 2001 (IGA).

The accused in question are Rhys Edward Jones, who operated online gambling services between March 2020 and March 2021; Diverse Link Pty Ltd, the firm which provided these services; and Brenton Lee Buttigieg, who promoted the operation and referred customers to it. 

An ACMA investigation into Diverse Link’s operations alleged that the group was providing online poker services, a type of gambling service prohibited under section five of the IGA. 

The authority argues that from 2 March 2020 to March of last year, Jones and Diverse Link offered Australians the option to play poker for money via a mobile app, with chips purchased from separate websites. 

Chips could be acquired through either bank transfers or bitcoin, which would then be credited to their poker club account and used for play, and subsequently redeemed for either Australian dollars or bitcoin.

Jones’ site initially operated under the name ‘PPPfish’ before rebranding twice to ‘Shuffle Gaming’ and then ‘Redraw Poker’, continuously offering the same poker services. 

Although the ACMA cannot offer further comment on the case due to the matter being taken to the Federal Court, the maximum penalty Jones and his accomplice could face is $1.665 million per contravention, whilst the fine for companies stands at five times this amount. 

The ACMA’s legal action is the authority’s first major case against a gambling operator this year, following an active campaign against both illegal gambling service providers as well as affiliate marketers and broadcasters in 2021.

Notably, the body ruled against Foxtel with regards to a betting advertisement shown during a Australian Football League (AFL) match and also issued blocking actions against a range of offshore websites targeting Australian consumers with unlicensed online gambling products.

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