Poker Asia Pacific’s Brabin Gets $10,000 Fine for Ill-Timed Market Foray
Running an “offshore” online-poker site serving the Australian market will soon be a thing of the past, but running an Aussie-facing site from within the confines of Australia has never been legal under the country’s gambling laws. Yet that doesn’t mean it hasn’t been tried anyway, usually with unfortunate results. Case in point: The $10,000 fine handed down a few days back to former WSOP APAC event winner and Australian citizen Luke Brabin, owner and operator of Poker Asia Pacific.
This one’s something of a head-scratcher. Brabin, who won a bracelet in an AUD $1,100 APAC prelim for $118,229 and has been all but unheard from in tournament poker circles since, purchased the pre-existing Poker Asia Pacific news portal back in 2015. PAP was kinda sorta a PokerNews spinoff in Australia, and exactly when they got the idea to add a real-money poker site component is hard to determine.
Nevertheless, whether Brabin added live poker into the site or bought PAP with it already included, it was the quintessential bad idea. While offshore sites offering online poker to Aussies had always been a grey area, the law of the land was clear about companies based in Australia: They could only provide online poker to players in other countries.
That’s why the long-running Merge Network, based in Oz, hasn’t had Australian players on its site for many years – not since the old poker.com days, if memory serves.
Still, Brabin and PAP tried to do it… quite openly it seems, offering online satellite qualifiers to several different land-based Aussie events.
Last August, Poker Asia Pacific officially came under the eye of Australian regulators, who forced the real-money poker games offline. On August 10th, 2016, PAP’s Facebook included this notice, in part:
“Unfortunately, Poker Asia Pacific must suspend its services until pending legal action regarding the Interactive Gambling Act is resolved. We are expecting to be off the air for 2-3 months.
“During this time, Poker Asia Pacific will be lobbying strongly to exclude online poker from the Interactive Gambling Act and resume its services without any legal implications… .”
A couple things there. First, that reference was to the older version of Australia’s Interactive Gambling Act (IGA), which had the pre-existing grey area regarding online poker, meaning it wasn’t really dealt with. Yet the original IGA, grey area regarding offshore services or not, still prohibited this type of intra-Australia service.
Granted, PAP was a pinprick of a poker site when reckoned on a global scale. Still, it was large enough to get noticed by Aussie authorities. The only thing similar within the past couple of years was the legal trouble that befell Bryan Micon, the one-time “Chairman” of Bitcoin-poker site SealsWithClubs. Micon was living rather openly in Las Vegas, but ended up fleeing on a short-term basis to Antigua following a raid on his Vegas apartment in connection with SWC operations. Micon eventually returned to Nevada to plead guilty on a misdemeanor charge and fine, which seems a rough equivalent to what Brabin received in his Australia case.
One of the curious twists in the Poker Asia Pacific tale occurred last August, seemingly just after Brabin was charged in connection with PAP’s poker offerings. At that point, Poker Asia Pacific put up links to a change.org online petition, supporting a carveout in the then-under-negotiation amendments being made to Australia’s online-gambling laws. That petition and the blog posts that supported it threw a little shade at those “offshore” giants such as PokerStars and 888Poker.
Stars and 888 are going away soon, but that doesn’t mean PAP is returning. Such is the nature of a misfired bullet. The two-to-three-month downtime Brabin envisioned for PAP is, of course, most likely to be permanent. That’s sometimes what happens when one gets a bit too brash in an uncertain market.