Flutter, the parent company of PokerStars, is paying out a $4 million fine to the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) for violations of US anti-corruption laws relating to the company’s business practices in Russia. The violations were of the legacy variety and occurred mostly before Flutter acquired Pokerstars’ parent the Stars Group back in 2019.
According to a statement from the SEC, representatives of the company were working on efforts to legalize online poker in Russia beginning in 2015, when they began paying out large amounts to Russian consultants who were also working on the project. SEC officials maintain that when TSG purchased the company from Amaya, they maintained relationships with the consultants, but did no due diligence on them.
Had anyone from TSG scratched the surface of what was happening on that end of the business, they would have found some very lax record-keeping, and a really tenuous compliance effort that left plenty of room for potential shady activities. For example, consultants in Russia were billing the company for gifts made directly to Russian lawmakers and other influencers. All of this activity took place with little or no supporting documentation.
Though Flutter is on the hook for PokerStars’ questionably lobbying techniques in Russia, the SEC made it pretty clear that the current owners had nothing to do with the violations in question. Flutter did receive a cease-and-desist warning to keep things clean with regards to this sort of activity.
Flutter is a massive company that includes dozens of brands and it’s likely that no one in the company was aware of the violations when it was acquired. The company pulled out of the Russian market entirely after the country’s illegal invasion of Ukraine in 2022.