World's Biggest Gaming Company Axes Online Poker in China

4 years ago
World's Biggest Gaming Company Axes Online Poker in China
19 Sep

It's been a rough ride recently for Tencent, the China-based online gaming company that has more users than anywhere in the world.

Following a series of run-ins with government regulators in China, the mega-company has seen a whopping $200 billion wiped of its market value since January, following a series a legal showdowns. With stock value plunging over 35% in recent months, it seems that Tencent has tried to get back onto sound footing by removing its most popular game, Texas Everyday Hold'em, from its offerings. The decline is slowing as Tencent tries to reign in foul-play, but shares are continuing to slide.

The game was hugely popular among Chinese players. It was accessed exclusively through WeChat, the Whatsapp-style messaging service with over 1 billion users in China alone, which has features allowing users to play games, pay for good and services, and even order food.

Everyday Texas Hold'em enjoyed the patronage of millions of players across the world's most heavily-populated country, so the removal of the hugely popular game has naturally left some players feeling rather shocked and dismayed.

The game operated somewhat differently to other online poker titles, which generally offer real cash payouts, with the Chinese game skirting local regulations by allowing players to play not for cash, but instead for virtual tokens known as "Texas Dollars" or "Diamonds", which players could use real money to buy.

What caught the attention of China's notoriously strict gaming regulators amid an unprecedented crackdown on all of forms of gaming spearheaded by the president, Xi Jinping, was the actions of a few players who appeared to be exploiting loopholes in order to gamble directly for cash. Frequent reports began appearing last year of the widespread practice among players to covertly exchange Diamonds and Texas Dollars for real cash, prompting regulators to step in.

The origins of this go back further than these initial reports. Earlier than this, the Chinese authorities announced a ruling on poker playing generally, claiming that the government did not consider it a skill-based game (which many other countries do), therefore it could not be afforded the same legal protection that officially designated skills-based games enjoy in China, meaning that a crackdown of some sort was inevitable.

It also comes amid growing concern among the upper echelons of the Communist Party that gaming of all kinds is having a negative impact on the health of the nation, part of an emerging philosophical creed which has seen all kinds of video games facing the regulatory axe in China.

While it is unsure how Tencent may react going forward, and if there is any hope of "Everyday Texas Hold'em" ever being restored on WeChat, one thing we can say for certain is that the crackdown is far from over. Expect further casualties across the iGaming industry in China, going forward, as regulators will undoubtedly be working overtime to try and sniff out any other loopholes that players might be exploiting as a workaround to some of the strictest anti-gaming laws in the world.

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Writer and semi-retired poker pro from Edinburgh (UK).Read more


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