China Announces Another Round of Poker-App Bans

Online Poker Ban in China

Back in June, the Chinese government toughened its stance on online poker by imposing a ban on all social poker apps, even those involving play money games. At the end of last month, the country subsequently introduced another round of bans.

Unlike the initial wave of poker-app bans, however, this time the app-based blacklisting involves online poker sites based outside China, such as India, Vietnam, and the Philippines. Counted among there numbers is Poker King and Poker Tribe, which had both been available via Android and iOS devices in China.

China Central Television Exposé

Around a week ago, China Central Television (CCTV) revealed news of the ban during one of its government-authorized exposés. According to the show, Poker King was reported to have been earning 50 million Yuan ($7.1 million) per day, mostly by charging commission on player winnings. In addition to Poker King, other sites said to be profiting from offering online poker apps include Poker Horde, Poker Tribe, as well as others.

The piece also drew attention to the plight of addicted Chinese poker players who had gambled away thousands of dollars on these international sites considered to be illegal in China. One person called Wang said that he had lost over 20,000 yuan over an eighteen month period playing on Poker King. Another with the surname He living in the Shandong Province said he had been playing on online gambling platforms for the past decade, and had lost more than 400,000 yuan during that time, mostly on Poker Circle, the site now known as Poker King.

Chinese Player Woes Continue

The multitude of apps recently added to the country’s growing blacklist had allowed Chinese players to connect to poker sites situated in other countries. Players could then funds their accounts using a variety of deposit channels, including cryptocurrencies such as Bitcoin.

The Chinese Black Friday which started this summer is laying waste to the country’s poker playing fraternity. Whether the government will succeed in its crackdown and curbing gambling activity within China, however, remains to be seen.

Will the Crackdown Succeed?

Like their American counterparts did post-Black Friday in 2011, tech-savvy Chinese players will no doubt also find ways to access international sites using VPNs. After all, there are still plenty of leaks remaining in the Great Firewall of China which its citizens are able to exploit.

One way to limit international gambling platforms from offering their products in China is through tighter control over financial institutions, according to Xie Mingdun. As the professor from the Beijing University of Posts and Telecommunications explains:

“Banking departments and financial supervision departments should also notify the authorities when they find a funds outflow [to an online gambling platform].”

In the meantime, a number of arrests have been made in connection with illegal online gambling activities. Over the past year, for instance, several illegal online gambling rings have been busted. One led to the arrest of 71 people in Shenzhen who have been gambling on Tencent’s social media apps WeChat and QQ platforms. Other provinces across China have also arrested people on similar charges.

Part of Wider Clampdown

The latest development is part of a larger crackdown on online content that is deemed to be “inappropriate” by the authorities. President Xi Jinping’s conservative government has not restricted its agenda to just gambling, though.

Recently, for example, the Office of Combating Pornography and Illegal Publications ordered Tencent to clean up pornographic content on WeChat, and “immediately conduct self-examination and self-correction.” WeChat is China’s most popular social-media platform, and also has 1 billion users worldwide. Since being given its directive, WeChat has blocked 1,706 of its Chinese accounts.