According to a report by Inside Asian Gaming, China has launched a crackdown on online poker operation and its promotion in the country. Beginning June 1, online poker will no longer be considered a competitive sport and thus not only will it be illegal but also its promotion via all social media platforms will be banned. The impacts of the ban are already rippling throughout Asia and beyond but the Chinese gaming industry is certainly going to get hit the hardest.
Regardless of the fact that gamblers are not allowed to play online poker for real money in China, the game has grown rapidly partly due to their promotion on social media. Therefore, places like Manila, Macau and Jeju Island in South Korea are certainly going to feel the pinch once the ban is implemented as from June 1.
According to the requirements of the ban, all mobile apps and device software offering any form of social online poker games are to be shut down and removed from the app stores. In addition to this, social media platforms like WeChat will no longer be allowed to promote any social poker offerings, particularly any Texas Hold’em product. The huge implications mentioned earlier emanate from the fact that poker in China to a large extent is played on these apps.
Operators from other parts of Asia are also bound to be affected by the ban specifically because Chinese players make up nearly half of their customers. Playing poker online is one of the main ways for players in Asia to qualify for live tournaments. Even if Chinese players choose to attend live poker events in other places, they will not be in the loop because on the social media ban – obviously, they cannot attend live poker events that they do not know about.
“It is a shame that the government won’t allow people talking about the game,” said Stephen Lai, the managing director of Hong Kong Poker Players Association. “We have been very happy that China has been allowing social gaming, not for money, so that people from China have a chance to practise and travel around Asia and beyond to play poker, where it is legal to do so.
Chinese players won’t have a chance to practise, and they won’t get to know about legal poker events around Asia. Poker has gone back to square one in China.”
While the Chinese government is yet to issue an official statement regarding the decision some operators such Tencent are already making moves to comply with the new regulations. Apparently, Tencent and some other companies are already removing their social online poker apps from the app store.