International edition
August 24, 2019

In online gambling government crackdown

China blocks Texas hold’em apps

China blocks Texas hold’em apps
The SCMP report stated that Poker King made money by charging a commission on money won by players on the app.
China | 10/31/2018

The Chinese goverment blocked several popular Texas hold’em apps this week as part of a widening government crackdown against illegal online activities.

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ccording to a report by the South China Morning Post, this is just the latest move by officials in Beijing to strengthen the government’s control over online activity in the country.

While it is unclear just how many apps were impacted by the move, it is known that the popular Poker King and Poker Tribe platforms were both included in the latest wave of blocked programs. According to Chinese state broadcaster CCTV, it is believed that as much as 50 million yuan ($7.2 million) is bet daily on these apps.

The SCMP report stated that Poker King made money by charging a commission on money won by players on the app. Players were required to deposit at least 1,000 yuan ($144) when they registered a new account, as well as provide a payment option for further deposits.

That may seem to obviously run afoul of Chinese gambling laws. However, Poker King and other online poker platforms have argued that they are operating legally under licenses that have been insured in the Philippines. Many apps have reappeared under alternative names after being shut down in the past: for instance, Poker King was once known as Poker Circle.

The latest government crackdown on online content has focused on content that has been deemed inappropriate for minors, a designation that goes well beyond poker and other gambling games.

Last week, Tencent Holdings was ordered to remove pornographic material from the popular Chinese social media platform WeChat. Other moves have been made to control how much time minors can spend playing online games, with SCMP reporting that the actions have sometimes forced the closure of even seemingly harmless apps that offer comics or jokes.

Crackdown Has Consequences for Macau

The attacks on online poker have been going on for far longer, however. In April, the Chinese government made all social poker apps illegal, causing Tencent to remove the play-money World Series of Poker app from its marketplace, among other poker games. The government also banned any messages deemed to be promoting the game of poker, something that was seen as a huge blow to the growing Chinese poker community.

These moves have also impacted the poker industry in Macau, though operators debated just how much they would be hurt by the lack of online poker in mainland China. Several major tournaments scheduled to take place in Macau this year have been cancelled, with the International Poker Tour Macau at the Venetian being cancelled in May, while the Asian Poker Tour moved their year-end finale from the Chinese enclave to the Philippines.

While it’s hard to say whether the crackdown will stop people from finding ways to play poker and gamble on social media, platforms have certainly taken drastic steps to try to comply with these orders. Earlier this year, WeChat closed more than 8,000 gambling-related groups in response to the government’s mandate.

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