China banned social media websites from promoting online poker on Monday. China’s Ministry of Culture said poker is no longer classified as a “competitive game”. The poker ban on social media appears to be complete, because even poker terms appear to be banned.

The decision caused one prominent Hong Kong-based poker advocate to say poker is “back to square one” in China.

All online poker applications and other game ads will be banned from Chinese social media websites by June 1, according to Gaming Asia. The Culture Ministry’s ruling means that all online poker games are seen as illegal in China.

Social media channels like WeChat cannot promote poker-related products, either. For instance, any product which cites Texas Hold’em or is involved in the play of Texas Hold’em will be banned on June 1.

Poker Players Criticize Action

Players worldwide criticized the decision, saying that social media poker is not even played for real money. They also said the decision would be a disaster for poker players throughout Asia.

Macau is the leading gambling destination in Asia, with players from all over the continent flocking to the former Portuguese colony which is now a Chinese special administrative zone. While the ban does not apply to Macau, it means that Chinese gamblers will not be exposed to poker. That means much less interest in Texas Hold’em for Chinese gamblers, which means Macau casinos will not have as many poker players. That, in turn, with have a withering effect on poker throughout the region.

Stephen Lai’s Concerns

That is the consensus opinion among Chinese poker advocates, at least. Stephen Lai, president of the Hong Kong Poker Players Association, said the decision would devastate the poker industry throughout the Asian continent. Stephen Lai suggested, according to The Ministry of Culture’s ban on poker apps, any discussion of poker would be banned.

That means Chinese card players will not be able to discuss the game or improve their skills in a meaningful way. Stephen Lai said, “[Poker] was growing very fast, now it is going to be more difficult for operators in Asia to organise poker events because Chinese players make up over half of the field. If you can’t promote those events on social media, Chinese players won’t know they are on so they won’t go.”

“It is a shame that the government won’t allow people [to be] talking about the game. We have been happy that China has been allowing social gaming, not for money, so that people from China have a chance to practice and travel around Asia and beyond to play poker, where it is legal.”

Boyaa and Tencent Affected

Hong Kong-listed Boyaa Interactive, one of the companies most affected by the Culture Ministry’s ban on poker apps, saw its shares fall 12% after the announcement. The impact was widespread across the gaming sector in China.

For instance, E-commerce giant Tencent deleted poker apps from its online store, which is the Chinese equivalent of Google Play or iTunes Apps Store.

Social Gaming Poker Was on the Rise

Players like Stephen Lai, who recently gave interviews saying that older gambling games like horse racing and Mahjong were a thing of the past, had pointed to social gaming as a way for poker’s popularity to spread. Those players pointed out that poker is a game of skill, while more popular Chinese real money games are games of chance.

Poker appears to be a better play option for Chinese gamblers, so the decision by the Culture Ministry to declassify poker as a competitive game is a particular rebuke. The move seems to be an attempt to force players to play worse games which takes more money out of their pockets.

Stephen Lai added, “It is embarrassing that the government will not allow people from speaking about games.”

About the Author
April Bergman avatar
April Bergman

April Bergman was a longtime news blogger for BOC. She wrote gaming news posts from January 2013 until September 2018. April also wrote slot reviews, strategy articles, and online casino reviews for the site.

April Bergman began in the online gaming industry in August 2010. From 2010 to 2013, she managed evergreen content for several top online casino. Her duties included developing and maintaining multiple websites in the gaming space. When not writing about online gambling, April loves horse racing, travel, photography, and gardening. She's began in the business as a devoted poker players and spent several years as a card game editor on the now-defunct DMOZ. These days, she lives with her husband and two children in the Toronto metropolitan area.

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April Bergman was a longtime news blogger for BOC. She wrote gaming news posts from January 2013 until September 2018. April also wrote slot reviews, strategy articles, and online casino reviews for the site.

April Bergman began in the online gaming industry in August 2010. From 2010 to 2013, she managed evergreen content for several top online casino. Her duties included developing and maintaining multiple websites in the gaming space. When not writing about online gambling, April loves horse racing, travel, photography, and gardening. She's began in the business as a devoted poker players and spent several years as a card game editor on the now-defunct DMOZ. These days, she lives with her husband and two children in the Toronto metropolitan area.

READ MORE
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