China Targets Online Poker Again with Latest Crackdown

October 31st, 2018 | by Jason Reynolds

China’s recent war against online poker took another step forward this week after two popular apps were taken offline.

Chinese government

China’s moves against online poker continue as the government shuts down two leading operators. (Image: Reuters/Damir Sagolj)

As part of the Chinese government’s drive to clean-up online content deemed “inappropriate,” Poker King and Poker Tribe have been shut down. The news was first made public by local broadcaster CCTV and marks the latest blow of poker operators in the region.

According to CCTV, Poker King was taking up to $7.2 million in bets per day by charging commission on player accounts. In an effort to skirt China’s strict anti-gambling laws, the operator was registered and licensed in the Philippines.

Offshore License Can’t Save Poker King

Speaking to CCTV, a representative for Poker King argued that the company has a right to offer games in China on account of its offshore license. However, they also acknowledged that previous dealings with the Chinese government have forced it to close down and re-enter the market.

“Poker King, in fact, is Poker Circle [which was previously forced to shut its business due to involvement in gambling],” the representative told the news broadcaster.

The revelation that some operators are rebranding in an effort to evade detection comes at a time when the government is putting pressure on online businesses to remove poker content. Back in May, social media platform Tencent was forced to remove anything referencing online poker.

At the same time social poker products were outlawed, representatives for WPT owner Ourgame were arrested, forcing it to remove its products from China’s leading app stores. The World Series of Poker (WSOP) quickly followed suit, leaving poker fans without any free-play platforms.

Crackdown Hurting Macau

With the Chinese government making its anti-gambling stance even more apparent, operators in Macau will be assessing the current situation. In the wake of May’s shut downs, City of Dreams and Galaxy Macau announced the closer of their live poker rooms.

Because mobile and online poker apps served as much of an advert for the game as places to play, revenue in the Chinese enclave has taken a hit. Between this and a crackdown on businesses responsible for helping VIPs travel to and gamble in Macau, the region has seen activity plummet in recent years.

With the latest move only adding to the problem, poker activity in Macau will continue to suffer as we head into 2019.


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