The Chinese Ministry of Culture announced that all online and mobile applications offering poker games and poker-related activities will be banned starting June 1. Black Friday has been known in the poker community as the day the three biggest poker operators in the US shut down. A new Black Friday is on the horizon for China once these enforced regulation roll out.
Beijing has issued a blanket ban, banning all poker related mobile apps along with all poker-themed promotions and conversations on social media. The WeChat store, App Store and Google Play have been asked to remove all applications that are offering or are in any way related to the game of poker.
While the legal framework is yet to be finalized, poker-related companies have already been hit and are taking actions to steer clear of the ban. Hong Kong-listed Boyaa Interactive, who operates several social poker apps and use their propriety online app to host qualifiers for their Boyaa Poker Tour has been the first to feel the brunt of the ban.
The company had earlier announced that more than half of their revenues come from their social poker-themed apps like Texas Poker and Boya Dezhou. The crackdown in China has seen their share price plunge 12 percent on the first day of the announcement.
Tencent, owner of chat application WeChat and operator of the Chinese franchise of the WSOP brand, has already closed down the WSOP app. They have also started prohibiting access to poker-themed chat rooms in the WeChat site to prepare the Chinese residents for the complete implementation of the ban in June.
Crackdown Comes After Television Expose
The crackdown comes just over three years after the Chinese police raided and shut down Asian-Pacific Poker Tour (APPT) Nanjing Millions event in 2015. According to the police, the reason for the raid is the fact that any form of gambling remains illegal in Mainland China. Chinese legislations state that gambling is only permitted in the special regions of Hong Kong and Macau.
Since gambling is illegal in China, Boyaa and Tencent were supposed to be only offering social play money poker games, which provide entertainment and act as practice venues for Chinese poker players who compete in international poker circuits. But a recent exposé run by China’s CCTV News revealed that many of these play money poker apps have been used by individuals and groups to run illegal gambling operations.
This has been the case in the Black Friday legal case in the US, where Full Tilt Poker, Cereus and PokerStars were alleged to have been involved in bank fraud and money laundering schemes. Black Friday has hit China and it will have an impact on the Asian poker scene as many Asian operators relied heavily on the Chinese market.