Last week’s confirmed news that the Chinese government plans to ban social poker apps and the promotion thereof on social channels on June 1 (see previous reports) has prompted media speculation that the forthcoming ban has impacted Macau operations.
The reports have conflated news of the ban with announcements that the City of Dreams and Galaxy poker rooms in Macau are to close, and that the International Poker Tour Macau sponsored by Alisports and scheduled for May 16-20 has been postponed.
Observers have pointed out that most poker marketing efforts in Macau depend on Chinese social media platforms, which the ban would effect in terms of prohibitions on promotions via social media.
PokerStars has confirmed that its 2013 partnership with City of Dreams Macau poker room has been dissolved, resulting in the end of a number of major poker events.
Without giving reasons, the Stars Group communications director, Eric Hollreiser, has simply confirmed that the partnership has come to an end and that PokerStars is considering other plans to “continue to bring high quality live events in Asia.”
Observers note that the Stars Group has become increasingly strict on international legal compliance in recent years, and may have been influenced in its partnership decision regarding Macau by the impending Chinese bans.
Not all poker operators are folding their cards in the face of the app ban; the Asian Poker Tour is underway at Macau Billionaire Club and other casinos like the Wynn and Venetian are still running cash games, according to media reports.
The conflation of the Chinese ban and the postponement of Alibaba subsidiary Alisports’ IPT Macau is more understandable; these are large Chinese internet companies making an initial foray into the Macau poker market via a live tournament spectacular scheduled for the Venetian and significantly dependent on social media promotion and qualifiers, along with Chinese government goodwill.
The project was also designed to promote the recently launched Alisports poker app, and the adoption of a wait-and-see posture makes sense.
In announcing the postponement, the IPT organising committee gave little indication of the motivation for the postponement, merely advising: “After careful consideration, the IPT Organizing Committee has decided to postpone their stop in Macao. IPT 2018 matches will be rescheduled as soon as possible.”