For the last 16 years, Australia’s Interactive Gambling Act (IGA) has deemed real online gambling to be legal on sports betting activities only. For the last 16 years, no online poker operator has been challenged and convicted by the government for operating illegally. Until now…
Luke Brabin is an Australian poker pro with one WSOP bracelet and over $200k in live tournament winnings under his belt. He’s also the owner of Play.PokerAsiaPacific.com, an online poker room that – up until August of last year – proudly accepted Aussie players.
Brabin Charged for Real Online Gambling
Brabin’s online poker site was launched in April of 2016, and was only in operation for five months before Australian authorities charged him with the illegal operation of a real online gambling website. When the charges were filed in August, the poker site was temporarily shut down, but operators were confident that the litigation would be resolved – in Brabin’s favor – within a few months time.
On August 10, 2016, the Poker Asia Pacific Facebook page was updated with an explanation to players who suddenly found themselves locked out of the poker room. The notice assured members that the suspension of services would only last “until pending legal action regarding the Interactive Gambling Act is resolved.”
In addition, the optimistic missive claimed that the site would probably be down for about “2-3 months”, and that the site’s managers were “confident of obtaining a positive result given the current landscape of the online poker market”.
That was not the case. Not only has Brabin’s real online gambling site been down for the last 10 months, it’s clearly not going to be re-opened. At least, not to Australian punters.
Australia’s First Conviction for Violating IGA
On Monday, Luke Brabin was convicted in Southport Magistrates Court. The poker pro was fined AU-$10,000 for violating the terms of the IGA.
This marks the first time an online poker operator has been charged and convicted for operating an illegal gambling website in Australia.
The operators of Play.PokerAsiaPacific.com firmly believed their lobbying efforts, in full swing at the time the charges were filed, would be successful. At that time, there was a heavy push from multiple online poker interests to have the activity excluded from upcoming legislation meant to clarify Australia’s position against real online gambling.
However, when the government finally introduced amendments to the IGA, online poker did not receive the carve out players and operators had hoped for. Instead, online poker was explicitly included as an illegal activity, and would not be eligible for regulation and licencing.
Brabin Lucky, Situation To Get Worse
Once the new legislation goes into effect (pending final approval), the Australia Communications and Media Authority (ACA) will have the power to issue civil penalties against any operator that violates the IGA.
Individuals found to be in violation could face fines of up to $1.35 million per day. The companies responsible for illegal real online gambling sites will face up to $6.75 million per day in fines.
According to The Australian, the charges against and subsequent conviction of Luke Brabin were the result of a referral from the AMCA. The group doesn’t yet have authority to impose those exorbitant penalties, but it is able to suggest legal action against operators already deemed to be in violation of the Act.
Brabin is most famous for his WSOP bracelet win at the 2014 World Series of Poker Asia-Pacific. The 37-year-old Aussie won the first event of the series, a $1,100 NL Hold’em event. Brabin overcame a field of 611 entrants, defeating fellow Aussie Didier Guerin in heads-up to claim the bracelet and the top prize of AU-$131,365.