The government of China recently decided to crack down on online poker applications, which has resulted in a series of issues within the poker industry of Macau. To date, two poker rooms have closed and a new tournament series canceled due to the legislative changes. More issues may arise in the future as the World Series of Poker may see an event canceled due to the recent policy changes.
The first poker room closure takes place within the City of Dreams venue. Melco Resorts & Entertainment decided not to renew their contract with PokerStars, which effectively saw the PokerStars LIVE Macau poker room shut down. The poker room was a major event host in the region, home to the APPT Macau, the Macau Poker Cup and the Asian Championships of Poker. PokerStars had spent five years at the City of Dreams, having first moved in to offer poker gaming in 2013.
No official reason behind the closure has been provided, by either Melco Resorts or PokerStars. According to Inside Asia Gaming, the change may be due to the main gaming floors being reimagined during an upcoming property overhaul.
The second poker room to shut down is the one at the Galaxy Macau. The eight-table poker room was used for cash gaming rather than tournament options and was recently refurbished, but was unable to gain in popularity.
After the two poker rooms shut down, it came to light that a new event set to take place in the region had been canceled. The International Poker Tour Macau was slated to take place next week, from May 16 – 20. Alisports was the organizer of the IPT who announced last week that the event was deferred “after careful consideration”. The business model of the IPT Macau was heavily centered around the Alibaba poker app to allow players to qualify for the tournament. With the crackdown, this was no longer an option.
Last month, the government of China announced that poker would no longer be considered a competitive sport and at the same time, Texas Hold’em could no longer be promoted on social media applications. With the ban, all apps that provide any form of social poker play will need to be shut down and no longer offered in app stores by June 1, according to Inside Asia Gaming. WeChat and other social media channels are now prohibited from promoting any products pertaining to Texas Hold’em.
The game of poker is popular in China largely due to social media applications. With this ban, several companies will be affected including the owner of World Poker Tour, Ourgame. Others affected include Boyaa Interactive and Tencent. Boyaa offers a poker tour which uses an app for qualification while Tencent has a poker app that was quickly removed after the ban announcement.
Tencent is connected to the World Series of Poker, having signed a partnership agreement for ten years back in 2017. The new agreement saw the first ever WSOP China take place last year and rumors are now circulating that the WSOP will be cancelled due to the poker gaming regulation changes. No announcement has been made by the WSOP on this matter.