While most Asian countries have a more liberal approach, China maintains strong restrictions on poker, especially its digital versions.
Online giants like Tencent, Alisports (Alibaba), and Ourgame, all had their own apps in the market but ended up shutting them down last year.
This week, Techcrunch reported on a new wave of restrictions aiming to reduce the number of online poker games approved in the market.
No licensing for new poker and mahjong apps
April 10th 2019 marked the day that the gaming authority State Administration of Press and Publication held a gaming conference to set new guidelines for publications of new applications in the Chinese online stores. And so with the continuation of the approval process on 22nd April also came a new set of rules and regulations in order to crack down on illegal gambling and gaming addiction.
There will be a cap of licenses for games entering the Chinese market and the genres that will not be eligible for licensing at all are poker and mahjong. More than a third of all license applications in 2017 had been poker or mahjong.
It means that no new poker games will be approved on the Chinese market in the foreseeable future.
These restrictions are targeting any kind of new poker apps, real money poker applications having never been legal while application offering chances to win significant prizes have been shut down almost fully last year.
The restrictions are also in place for games that have plots around China’s Imperial history and those that are too violent. The latter include gaming sensations like CS:GO and PUBG. These kind of games had already been subject to strict regulations on PC, which is now being extended to mobile applications.
If it’s gaming or gambling, in both cases smaller developers will be crushed in this crackdown, while bigger developers might be able to adjust quickly to the new rules and are allowed to keep their existing products on the market.
Chinese Black Friday 2018
This new episode arrives after the disastrous ban of 2018.
One might say that Friday, 1st June 2018 was the Chinese Black Friday of poker. On that day, an announcement was made that all major poker apps currently operating in China were to be banned.
The applications targeted were offering chances to players to qualify to major live events hosted in the country and were often allowing 3rd parties to cashout game credits to real money.
It was a horrible blow to the growing poker community in China.
Stephen Lai, managing director at the Hong Kong Poker Players Association was quoted by the South China Morning Post.
“Now, with the alleged policy change, there will be no play money poker in China, and you can’t talk about poker on social media. 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,”
Only Tencents WSOP-authorized “Daily Texas” app had survived until September, partially due to lobbying efforts. But it eventually had to stop operating as well, which also led to the cancellation of the 2018 WSOP China.
Poker’s future in China
These poker apps that were banned last year had been allowing thousands of players to qualify for live events in Mainland China.
Live tournaments are still running all over the country but without this inflow of online qualifiers. Poker remains popular with festivals overpassing the 1,000 mark in their Main Event this year.
On the online side, like all the countries where authorities have tried to fully ban the game, players are enjoying games on sites or private clubs operated offshore without any protection from their governments.