Poker in China: Crackdown on Online Poker Applications

China poker community is in shock after the announcement of a massive crackdown on online poker applications. For the past years, Texas Hold’em online poker apps have been fuelling the growth of the game in the country.

Allin Or Nothing 1
Chinese press / Boyaa Interactive International Limited stocks

To summarize the “state of mind” of the community, poker pro Guo Duong, Tencent Ambassador, shared on his Wechat,

“They are going to shutdown all poker app on June 1st which means no more poker in China.. A lot of people ask me how I feel, I feel I just want to cry…”

The scope of the Chinese crackdown

Information available so far on the Chinese media are the following:

Starting June 1st:

  • All applications offering online poker will be banned. Scope of this interdiction is extremely large as it explicitly includes all applications offering to play poker for virtual currencies
  • App stores will have to remove all poker related applications from their stores in order to prevent the download of these applications
  • It is forbidden to promote poker in general via all social media channels in China: Wechat, Weibo etc…

It’s important to note that the legal frame behind this news apprently has not been officially published yet. Additional clarifications or even changes are still possible until the enforcement of the ban.

Major consequences for poker in China?

To understand the potentiel scope of the interdiction it’s important to understand that these poker applications are instrumental in the growth of the poker industry in China. In a country where live poker is evolving in an extremely limited and regulated space, apps have been the primary tools to promote the events.

Online giants like Tencent, Alisports (Alibaba), and Ourgame, all have launched their own applications in order to fuel their live events. Hundreds of players qualify via these online apps.

Numerous other applications have also been used to host real money private games. This provides players an easy way to play poker in a country where it is difficult to access many international poker sites.

By attacking and shutting down these apps, the Chinese government is practically crippling the backbone of the Chinese poker ecosystem.

According to one media site, after the announcement, stocks of Boyaa Interactive International Limited dropped more than 10%. The Chinese company is just one of many that has a high income stream coming from their Texas Hold’em applications.

Ourgame, the parent company of the Word Poker Tour, has announced that they will re-adjust their poker related activities in Mainland China to respect the latest interdiction. World Poker Tour events outside of China should not be affected.

The Chinese Black Friday of Poker?

For years, the government has been ruthless on shutting down sites that do not comply with societal standards. Last year saw thousands of online applications get the axe with many imposed stiff fines for violations.

At this early stage, it is hard to know what long term consequences will follow this announcement but for players, this day could be remembered as the Chinese Black Friday. The growth of the game in China has been largely fuelled by the online scene with strong interest by several tech giants such as Tencent and Alibaba. With these poker apps banned, it will have an instant impact in the live scene. Though how much has yet to be seen.

Ultimately, what the poker community currently hopes for is that this shakedown will lead to a quick clarification of the legal situation of poker in China and that the community will be able to build from this legal frame.

Article by Triccia David


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Tricia David

Tricia David has long experience as a recreational poker player and has been covering poker events since 2010 for numerous outfits in Asia. She spent one year working part time with Poker Portal Asia then became editor and lead writer for all event coverage of the Philippine Poker Tour (PPT). Under the PPT, she overlooked content for their website, and produced live updates on all their events. In addition, she served as the live and online events website content writer for the Asian Poker Tour. Currently, she does live events reporting in Asia for online news site Somuchpoker and is also one of their news contributors.

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