PokerStars Pulls Out of China, Macau, and Taiwan Markets

PokerStars is to exit the markets in China, Macau, and Taiwan. Only a few days ago they announced that they would be leaving any areas that did not meet their compliance standards.

By: Mark Patrickson

This latest move shows once again how local authorities are tightening the screws on online gambling. China in particular has been fighting hard to prevent any cross-border gambling connected with its citizens.

On Monday 31st September a screenshot was posted on the TwoPlusTwo forums showing a message from PokerStars support for affected players to begin withdrawing their funds. Several changes have been made to make the process smoother such as withdrawing to ewallets without having previously made a deposit.

Lesson Learned

PokerStars new parent company Flutter Entertainment are clearly learning from the mess following Black Friday. Playing ball now might help them in the future if foreign companies are ever invited to service customers in markets classed as a grey area.

“...a small number of TSG jurisdictions that Flutter had previously determined it would not operate in and in such cases, we have now switched these markets off.”

Legislators seem determined to kill off any activity that might facilitate money laundering regardless of how small the chance is. Flutter said they are going to step up “the quality of TSG’s safer gambling/anti-money laundering procedures”, in a process estimated at a £65 million hit to their bottom line.

That’s a big hit, so can we expect even higher rake and charges in the future to cover this?

China was one of the big hopes for another poker boom. Gambling is popular among the population and we hoped that they, along with India, would take to poker and bring the game to new heights.

A more worrying piece of news is that 131 PokerStars related websites have been added to the online blacklist of Russia’s telecom watchdog Roskomnadzor, two of them in June 2020.

The Russian players being blocked from the worldwide player pool would have a massive effect on the ecosystem, possibly as damaging as Black Friday when Americans were locked out.

There will be some nervous players checking their emails for the next few weeks. Only three months ago Russian residents were blocked from Flutter’s Betfair platform.

Former PokerStars CEO Rafi Ashkenazi has previously boasted of the group’s attempts to circumvent payment processor restrictions in grey markets. He clearly understands the major disruption this could cause to the market.

GGPoker will be watching the market with interest. They are a fast-growing site with tons of Russian and Chinese customers. Will they play ball with the authorities?

There will also be a lot of interest from unlicensed operators interested in filling the gap if local laws become too restrictive to compete at the top of the market.

The next few months will be interesting. Plenty is happening that could change the poker landscape beyond recognition.

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