Famous cricket player, Shane Warne, narrowly avoided charges of operating an illegal gambling web site. The site, based in the United Kingdom, placed Warne in violation of laws in his local area of Victoria, Australia. The cricket player managed to avoid criminal charges by having his staff shut the web site down.
The famous Leg Spinner was the man behind the UK web site PokerCricket.com. The web site featured a computer cricket game, as well as a blog and poker tips by Warne. The web site also provided links to an outside web site where visitors could play poker and gamble on casino games.
News of the web site led to an extensive investigation by the Victorian Commission for Gambling Regulation in the Australian province of Victoria, where Warne maintains a residence. Following the investigation, the Gambling Commission ruled that the web site was in violation of gambling laws in the area.
Peter Cohen, the Executive Commissioner of the Victorian Commission for Gambling Regulation, was quoted by the Australian Herald Sun as saying, "It is illegal to offer or advertise in Victoria the playing of interactive (gambling) games."
Cohen went on to say that, "Gambling is a strictly regulated business and we would expect all people to comply with legislation, whether they are high profile or not."
In addition to facing pressure from the Gambling Commission, Warne was also confronted by private groups that campaign against gambling. These groups attacked Warne for comments made in his blog that stated that poker players should not be afraid of losing. While these groups state that this meant Warne was cashing in on vulnerable people, those who are familiar with the game of poker tend to agree with Warne whole-heartedly.
Although the Victorian Commission was clear the Warne's web site was illegal and violated gambling laws, they also stated that it was their belief that Warne was unaware of the violation and did not intentionally violate the law. Because of this, they were willing to let Warne go without charges being filed so long as the web site was taken down, which is exactly what happened.
The decision have left many scratching their head in confusion. Message boards on sports gambling web sites have been filled with comments asking how a web site in the United Kingdom, which did not offer gambling (but did offer links to gambling web sites), have caused such turmoil.
James Erskine, Warne's Manager, also expressed outrage over the matter and accused the Herald Sun of gutter journalism for filing the initial report with the Victorian Gaming Commission.
Erskine was reported as telling Herald Sun reporters to, "Stop being a weasel and get a proper job."