With the poker industry currently transitioning to the online poker scene more heavily than before, it would seem that available options and new alternatives would simultaneously arise to satisfy overall market demand.
Unfortunately for players residing in China, Taiwan and Macau, this is not the case as online poker’s leading gameplayer, PokerStars announced its exit from operating within these regions effective last September 1st. The revelation came as parent company, Flutter Entertainment announced plans of tightening control over The Stars Group (TSG) unit a few days prior, majority of which consists of the online poker giant.
Players from said markets received a message from Stars Support informing them of the scheduled retreat and a few changes to accommodate player withdrawals given the situation. Banking changes such as lowering the minimum amount available for bank wire transfers to USD 50, enabling MuchBetter as a withdrawal option without a previous deposit for China and Macau, and Skrill and NETELLER for Taiwan were made effective immediately to facilitate consumer issues.
In a statement, the global entertainment company relayed that there were
“a small number of TSG jurisdictions that Flutter had previously determined it would not operate in and in such cases, these markets are being switched off”.
All three countries involved do not allow legal real money online gaming as of the moment, which has been the clear basis of the untimely decision. In an effort to abide by its compliance standards, Flutter also revealed its objective in improving
“the quality of TSG’s safer gambling/anti-money laundering procedures”.
Estimating a loss in gaming revenue in the realm of £65m per year, the UK-listed provider is focused on eliminating operations in unregulated markets while gearing towards developing better technology for the widely popular platform.
“We estimate that the combined impact of these measures will reduce contribution on an annualised basis by c.£65m, the majority of which relates to aligning our responsible gambling/compliance procedures and putting Flutter’s enhanced checks in place across the PokerStars business.”, it was further added.
Looking back, it has been a year since competitor partypoker exited several gray Asian markets in a scene quite familiar like this one. While the hold of the previous partypoker site not vaguely as extensive as that of PokerStars’, the situation remains that gaming options for players within these markets are becoming more and more limited. Successful platforms GGNetwork and skins like Natural8 operating throughout the region may ultimately benefit from the exit, possibly resulting to a boost in traffic across their sites in the coming weeks.
Keeping a foot via partnerships
The industry’s biggest brand has strengthened its presence well within the Asian poker community throughout the years by way of hosting branded tours such as the Asia Pacific Poker Tour (APPT) and facilitating other live poker venues. With extensive visibility and brand exposure to players in Asia, the PokerStars brand gained a significant advantage over other competing networks and has successfully established its hold in the region.
The exit, however it brings inconvenience to many, does not necessarily mean that the brand will completely cut all ties with the Chinese markets. Presently, players located in the involved countries can access the PokerStars network via its partnership with 6UP.
The partnership skin is reportedly not operated by Flutter Entertainment and currently remains live even after the announcement was due. With no comment issued regarding the continued involvement with the said third party site, the situation rests to be unclear and at the same time, uncertain. Nonetheless, players in these markets will unavoidably keep an access to the online poker giant’s network perhaps under a different brand name in the near future.