The Chinese government continued its aggressive crackdown on the gambling industry last week, directing tech titan Tencent Holdings to shut down the nation’s last remaining online poker app.
Players using the “Everyday Texas Hold’em” app by Tencent were informed of the closure on September 10, via a letter instructing them to initiate the refund process. Per that letter, the server data for Everyday Texas Hold’em will be entirely deleted on September 25.
Founded in 1998, the Shenzen-based Tencent is the world’s largest video game company when measured by revenue, but the bulk of its business is derived from WeChat – China’s largest social media network with more than 1 billion users.
WeChat users were previously able to use their social media accounts to login to Everyday Texas Hold’em, a free to use platform offering “play money” poker. Rather than deposit real money and risk it in poker games, Everyday Texas Hold’em players competed for virtual currencies like the “Texas Dollar.” After accruing a bankroll of Texas Dollars, players could then exchange them for goods and prizes via Tencent.
But as the Wall Street Journal has reported Everyday Texas Hold’em found its way to Chinese regulators’ radar due to a widespread practice involving middlemen to transfer virtual currency into cash:
“Players in Chinese poker games use virtual currency instead of real money to bet, and commonly go through middlemen services to transfer or cash out their winnings.”
When pressed for comment about the poker app’s closure by Reuters, Tencent representatives declined to elaborate beyond the letter posted to users.
That letter explained the shuttering of Everyday Texas Hold’em as merely “an adjustment in its business.”
The Wall Street Journal requested comment from the Chinese government’s Ministry of Culture and Tourism, along with the General Administration of Press and Publication – which is widely believed to take over game approvals when a bureaucratic reorganization is complete – but both agencies declined to comment.
Back on June 1 of this year, the Chinese government announced a series of policy changes designed to target poker operations – both online and in brick and mortar casinos in Macau.
Gambling has long been banned by China’s ruling Communist Party, but the legal gambling haven of Macau transformed into a poker hotspot in recent years. And using social media platforms like WeChat and Weibo, players were able to exploit the play money loophole to turn games like Everyday Texas Hold’em into real money online poker rooms.
That all changed on June 1, however, when the government initiated a crackdown that has since been called China’s “Black Friday.” Several poker apps were ordered to cease operations, while the live poker rooms ran by the City of Dreams and Galaxy Macau casinos closed their doors.
At the time, Stephen Lai – managing director of the Hong Kong Poker Players Association – gave an interview to the South China Morning Post in which he assessed the industry’s chances of survival:
“Poker has gone back to square one in China.
Now, with the alleged policy change, there will be no ‘play money’ poker in China, and you can’t talk about poker on social media. Chinese players won’t have a chance to practice, and they won’t get to know about legal poker events around Asia.
If you can’t promote those events on social media, Chinese players won’t know they are on – so they won’t go.”
Tencent struck a deal with the World Series of Poker (WSOP) in July of last year, hosting the first WSOP China the following December. As of now, no word has been released on the fate of the 2018 WSOP China series.