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Chinese Technology Giant To Shut Down Poker Game At Government's Request

Country's Largest Social Network Folds On Hold'em

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The Chinese government on Monday scored another win toward further controlling people’s private lives when the tech giant Tencent announced that it will shut down a popular poker app.

The announcement wasn’t out of left field. The move follows reports in April that China was no longer looking at poker as a competitive mind sport. Beijing reportedly said that it would be illegal not only to offer but also to promote poker over social media.

According to Reuters, Tencent Holdings said that it will fold “Everyday Texas Hold’Em” on Sept. 25. Tencent, which also operates the country’s largest social media platform WeChat, generated about $34 billion USD worth of revenue last year. WeChat itself has more than a billion users.

Earlier this year, after the firm got wind of the crackdown, Tencent removed the World Series of Poker app from the WeChat app store, according to Inside Asian Gaming. The WSOP and Tencent partnered in 2017 to “help educate and grow the competitive game of poker in Asia.” Later that year, the WSOP and Tencent hosted a series of live events on the Chinese island Hainan.

Tencent poker players will be financially compensated based on guidelines from the Ministry of Culture and Tourism, Tencent said on its WeChat account.

Per reporting from The Wall Street Journal, an unspecified number of users of the virtual-money poker platform call on middlemen services to transfer or cash out their winnings.

According to Reuters, the moves come amid a wider gambling crackdown. Macau is the only place in China where casino-style gambling is legal. A handful of years ago, Beijing cracked down on what it saw as corruption in the Macau gaming sector, which caused gaming revenues to plummet. A recovery for Macau has unfolded over the past two years, but an ongoing trade conflict between China and the United States could spell trouble in the not-too-distant future for Las Vegas-based casino giants with gambling dens there.

It’s also worth mentioning that multiple live poker events in Macau were recently scrapped after the tournaments were unable to secure government approval.

Per Reuters, an unnamed source in Tencent’s gaming division said it wasn’t surprising that the poker game was the next shoe to drop. Previously, Tencent had to amend a game called “Playerunknown’s Battleground” because it “severely deviated from socialist core values.” The scrutiny on that game reportedly wasn’t thanks to gambling but rather the gory nature of the content. China has also targeted some content over addiction concerns.

But while addiction is real for some gamers, China has made especially heavy-handed moves. Per the Journal, Tencent announced last week that it will soon start checking the identities and ages of players on its popular “Honor of Kings” video game against a police database to pinpoint “irrational consumption” by minors. The firm called the move unprecedented.

Tencent invoked nationalism in explaining the decision, which will be applied to other games in the future. “Children are the hope of their families, the future of the country,” the company said. “Tencent has always seen healthy online access for minors as a matter of utmost importance.”

Observers of world politics might note that Texas hold’em is a thoroughly American game, which gives Beijing yet another opportunity to distance itself from the United States culturally.

 
 
Tags: China,   Tencent