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I’ll see you and raise you - maybe not in China as Beijing blocks multiple mobile poker gambling apps

  • The closures come as the Chinese authorities strengthen oversight of online activity and content
PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 30 October, 2018, 8:04am
UPDATED : Thursday, 15 November, 2018, 3:59pm

Multiple Texas hold’em poker mobile gambling apps have been blocked in China as Beijing widens its crackdown on illicit online activities and clean-up of content it deems inappropriate.

Two of the biggest names affected are Poker King and Poker Tribe, which function as online gambling platforms, with total daily betting amounts reaching as much as 50 million yuan (US$7.2 million) at the former, according to a news report from state broadcaster CCTV.

Users of platforms such as Poker King have to charge their accounts with at least 1,000 yuan for gambling after registering as a new user, and provide their payment service or bank card. The platforms make money by charging a commission on winnings in customer accounts.

The closures come as the Chinese authorities strengthen oversight of online activity and content, including an order last week that Tencent Holdings remove pornographic materials from its dominant social media platform WeChat. The broad campaign to clean up “inappropriate” online content – including time restrictions and controls over how much minors spend on online games – has forced some of the country’s hottest tech start-ups to shut down seemingly harmless services, such as joke and comics apps.

China orders Tencent to clean up pornography on WeChat

In early July, Chinese police smashed a gambling ring that punted on virtual red packets on WeChat. And in the past year and a half, Shenzhen authorities have arrested 71 people for gambling activities on Tencent’s WeChat and QQ platforms, with the largest sum involving around 60 million yuan. In the second quarter of this year, WeChat closed more than 8,000 gambling-related groups on the platform, according to data released by Tencent’s security centre.

Whether the crackdown will curb gambling in China is an open question though. A gambler with the surname Wang said he lost more than 20,000 yuan in one and a half months on Poker King. He said he cannot stop as he is addicted to poker gambling, according to CCTV.

Platforms like Poker King have said they have the legal right to run online gambling businesses under licences issued by the Philippines, according to CCTV, which also said that the online gambling platforms often change their names to re-enter the market after previously being forced to close by the authorities. The agency representing Poker King in China told CCTV that, “Poker King, in fact, is Poker Circle [which was previously forced to shut its business due to involvement in gambling],” CCTV said.

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A 41-year old gambler with the surname He from Jinan, Shandong Province said he had lost over 400,000 yuan in the past decade by using online gambling platforms, mainly Poker Circle, according to the CCTV report.

Xie Mingdun, a professor from the Beijing University of Posts and Telecommunications, told CCTV that the Chinese authorities can prevent overseas-registered gambling platforms from operating in China. “Banking departments and financial supervision departments should also notify the authorities when they find a funds outflow [to an online gambling platform],” added Xie.