Another Blow for Poker in China As Macau Venues Close

May 7th, 2018 | by Brian Corlisse

Poker in China was dealt another blow recently after two leading venues closed their doors and a live tour was forced to postpone its launch.

City Of Dreams Macau

The poker room at City of Dreams Macau has closed its doors after ending its partnership with PokerStars. (Image: Wing/Wikipedia)

First reported by local gaming media outlet Somuchpoker, the latest from Macau is that the poker rooms inside City of Dreams and Galaxy Macau have closed their doors.

Rumblings of a change started when the International Poker Tour (IPT) Macau announced it would be postponing its opening event in the Chinese enclave.

IPT Puts Macau Debut on Hold

An offshoot of ecommerce and technology group Alibaba, the IPT was set to host its first Macau festival inside the Venetian Macau between May 16 and May 20. But a month after unveiled details of the $1.5 million festival, organizer Alisports announced it would no longer go ahead as planned.

“After careful consideration, IPT Organizing Committee has decided to postpone stop in Macau. Stay tuned with updates on IPT official website,” read a May 2 notice on the IPT website.

The IPT’s change of plan was followed on May 4 by the news that City of Dreams and Galaxy Macau will no longer be offering poker. Although neither casino has provided an official reason for the closures, the former’s decision is rumored to be linked with an end to its partnership with PokerStars.

City of Dreams and PokerStars have enjoyed a working relationship since 2013 when the latter moved its operations from the Grand Lisboa. Following up on the speculation, Pokernews obtained a statement from the Vice President of Corporate Communications for The Stars Group Eric Hollreiser.

“We can confirm that the PokerStars partnership with City of Dreams Macau has come to an end. We are working on ensuring that we can continue to bring high quality live events in Asia,” Hollreiser said on May 4.

Uncertainty Reigns in China

The closures don’t signal the end of poker in Macau, but the news is yet another example of the ever-changing gaming market in China. On April 23, local media reports picked up on the government’s plans to ban free play poker apps from June 1.

The full details of what the ban will look like in practice haven’t been published, but a number of companies active in the social poker space have already reacted. Ecommerce site Tencent has removed the WSOP app, while Ourgame has said it will monitor the situation with regards to the World Poker Tour.

As well as poker operators removing their products, WeChat will also stop advertising poker apps via its messaging platform.

Despite changes in the app world, some operators active in China were confident that the game can still flourish within the region.

“The ban does not materially affect our existing businesses or our live events,” a representative for The Stars Group told Macau News Agency (MNA) on May 2.

However, in light of Macau’s poker room closures, it looks as though the ban may be having a more significant impact than previously expected.

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