PokerStars Shuts Down Hong Kong Betting

PokerStars has announced that it will no longer offer real-money play to Hong Kong residents. No reason for the move was given, but coincides with an agreement between the Stars Group—which owns PokerStars—subsidiary Lucky Genius and Hong Kong-listed casino investor International Entertainment Corp. to operate land-based live events and poker rooms under the branding of PokerStars in some Asian countries.

PokerStars has abruptly shut down real-money play for Hong Kong players in what appears to be a repositioning of The Stars Group in Asian Markets.

In an email sent to players this week, The Stars Group said it had “taken the decision to withdraw the option of real money play for residents of Hong Kong from Wednesday, May 23.”

According to Inside Asian gaming, the company didn’t offer a reason for withdrawing from the market, but said “the Stars Group frequently reviews commercial and regulatory developments around the world.”

The move comes after an announcement by Hong Kong-listed casino investor International Entertainment Corporation that it had signed a collaboration agreement with The Stars Group subsidiary Lucky Genius Limited to operate land-based live events and poker rooms under the branding of PokerStars in certain Asian countries, according to Inside Asian Gaming.

“The Stars Group has entered into an agreement with Hong Kong-based International Entertainment Corporation to license the PokerStars brand for land-based live events and poker rooms across Asia. IEC, a publicly listed company, will hold the sole and exclusive rights to run PokerStars branded events in certain Asian countries as mutually agreed by The Stars Group and IEC, which will be operated through a subsidiary,” the company told the news site in a press statement.

The decision also follows a crackdown on online poker applications by the mainland Chinese government, which announced last month that poker will no longer be recognized as a competitive sport and that the promotion of Texas Hold ‘em via social media applications would be banned.

The ban requires all apps offering any form of social poker game to be shut down and removed from app stores by 1 June, with social media channels such as WeChat will also be banned from promoting any form of Texas Hold ‘em product, the report said.

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