Global Glance: Portugal Poker Suffers, China Ban Fallout Continues
The weekly Global Glance looks at the online poker scene around the world. What happens with online poker and gambling beyond America’s borders can and often does impact the state of online poker in the United States.
As Portugal’s entry to the online poker liquidity network remains delayed, its online poker market consisting solely of PokerStars is showing signs of suffering. Meanwhile, Malta excitedly moves ahead with its newly-revised gambling laws to offer more player protections. And various companies continue to see fallout from the Chinese government’s poker ban. Company employees have been arrested, and the most well-known poker room in Macau has closed.
Portugal Online Poker Drops
Last week, we reported that France’s online poker market grew significantly in the first quarter of 2018. While it’s 18% increase may have resulted partially from the launch of the shared liquidity project in Europe, that network is only barely getting underway.
Portugal has not yet joined the poker shared liquidity network, and its online poker numbers need it. Portuguese online gambling regulator Serviço de Regulação e Inspeção de Jogos (SRIJ) reported that online poker revenue was down 33% year-on-year in the first quarter of 2018.
The overall market was solid, however, having delivered €33.8 million in Q1, a 7% increase year-on-year but down slightly from the previous quarter. While online poker dropped and sportsbooks remained flat, online casino games spurred the growth with an 18% increase in revenue.
— Poker Industry PRO (@pokerindpro) May 18, 2018
Malta Parliament Approves New Laws
It may simply be called the Gaming Act, but Malta’s newly-revised gambling laws are being touted as an important response to the evolving market.
Parliament approved the new provisions for the Gaming Act, which will give more weight to Malta Gaming Authority’s powers to ensure that all operators comply with industry standards. The main focus of the provisions centers around preventing money laundering and protecting players, the latter of which includes the creation of a player support unit within the MGA to resolve disputes between players and gambling operators.
Currently, the updated laws are being vetted for technical compliance, and members of the European Union can comment on the proposals. If all goes as planned, the laws are expected to be effective in July 2018 for remote gambling operators, with compliance by land-based properties due by January 2019.
Malta moves to power-up MGA with Gaming Act revamp https://t.co/PyH0vrpkVO
— SBC NEWS (@SBCGAMINGNEWS) May 11, 2018
Fallout from China Poker Ban Continues
About one month ago, the Chinese government took its poker ban to a new level by ordering all social poker apps removed from online app stores by June 1. Social media outlets are now prohibited from promoting, advertising, or allowing conversations about Texas Hold’em and associated products.
Almost immediately, companies like Ourgame and Tencent took hits on the stock market, but more fallout has happened in the weeks since.
Ourgame, which acquired the World Poker Tour in 2015, confirmed that six employees of its Beijing Lianzhong subsidiary were detained in the Henan Province for using the brand to “engage in personal activities contrary to the gambling laws of the PRC.” The company noted that the actions which preceded the arrests were related to personal activities and not Ourgame, but details continue to emerge.
Six Ourgame employees arrested as Chinese online poker crackdown gains steam https://t.co/OwRUHel6Zz
— Alexandre Dreyfus (@alex_dreyfus) May 14, 2018
While some Macau poker rooms continue to operate, some of the poker events and sponsorships have become part of the fallout from the China ban.
The International Poker Tour Macau that was supposed to take place last week was cancelled. Alibaba was to host the events to introduce its new poker app, but the ban derailed all associated plans.
Two poker rooms are closing. The Galaxy Macau is one, and the formerly very popular PokerStars-sponsored City of Dreams is the other. PokerStars branded its poker room there in 2013, but the company did confirm the end of the partnership to PokerNews. “We are working on ensuring that we can continue to bring high quality live events in Asia,” said Stars Group Vice President of Corporate Communications Eric Hollreiser.
China's ban on these apps is an attempt to strip the gaming engine from within a thriving underground-poker scene enabled through electronic devices. https://t.co/eCtPPIwJCc
— Haley Hintze (@Haley_Hintze) May 6, 2018