The Chinese government on Monday took another step toward further controlling people’s private lives when the tech giant Tencent announced that it will shut down poker.
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, so its decision to agree to Beijing’s demands is striking. WeChat itself has more than a billion users.
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 comes 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 recover 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.
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’s has made especially heavy-handed moves. Per the Journal, Tencent announced last week that it will soon start checking the identifies 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 a first for the industry.
Tencent invoked nationalism in its explanation of the unprecedented move, which will be applied to other games. “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.