PokerStars to Withdraw From China, Taiwan, and Macau

  • PokerStars is exiting said countries effective September 1
  • Poker room has made it easier for customers to withdraw their funds
  • Flutter Entertainment alluded to “switching off” some markets in Thursday’s earnings report
  • PokerStars’ financial numbers have soared during the pandemic
Child waving goodbye to plane at airport
PokerStars customers recently found out via e-mail that the online poker room is exiting China, Taiwan, and Macau. [Image: Shutterstock.com]

Cash out policies loosened

According to an e-mail circulating in the poker community, PokerStars will be exiting China, Taiwan, and Macau on September 1. The e-mail, sent from “Stars Support” to customers in those countries, was posted on the Two Plus Two poker forum Monday morning.

The message does not dive into any reasons why PokerStars is leaving the three Asian markets. The only additional information provided has to do with withdrawal options. PokerStars did say that it has relaxed some of its rules to make it easier for players to get their funds off the site.

minimum wire transfer amount has been decreased to $50

The minimum wire transfer amount has been decreased to $50 for the affected countries. For China and Macau, players can cash out via MuchBetter, even if they didn’t use that method to deposit. Similarly, for Taiwanese customers, Skrill and NETELLER are available for withdrawal even without a previous deposit. Normally, for cash outs via most methods other than wire transfer or physical check, customers can only use a vehicle if they already used it for a deposit.

Other withdrawal methods available are CFT-eligible Visa, WebMoney, and ecoPayz. These, however, fall into the category of needing a previous deposit in order to use them to cash out.

Parent company avoiding legal problems

Again, PokerStars gave no reason for the decision, but conventional wisdom says that its parent company, Flutter Entertainment, wants to avoid grey and black markets. Online poker has not been legalized in any of the three countries.

In Thursday’s earnings report, Flutter Entertainment said there were “a small number of TSG (The Stars Group) jurisdictions that Flutter had previously determined it would not operate in and in such cases, we have now switched these markets off.”

China, specifically, has been ratcheting up its fight against illegal online gambling. The country has created a national blacklist of online gambling companies, partnered with the Philippines to stop Chinese nationals from working for Philippine Offshore Gaming Operators (POGOs), and increased its focus on gambling financial transactions. The Chinese Ministry of Public Security has also created a website for citizens to report people who engage in illegal gambling.

The company also wants to tighten up The Stars Group’s “safer gambling/anti-money laundering procedures”. Flutter estimates that withdrawing from certain markets, plus its increased efforts to combat money laundering, will cost it about £65m (US$87m) per year.

2020 financials great so far

The Stars Group had an excellent financial first half of 2020, thanks largely to the COVID-19 pandemic. With people staying home and casinos closing, poker play moved online. PokerStars’ revenue increased 40% to £697m (US$932m) in the first six months of the year. Earnings from said revenue jumped by two thirds to £380m ($511.5m).

free-play customers surging by a multiple of seven

Average daily customers exploded by 75% in the second quarter. Even more astounding was the increase in free-to-play poker players. Homebound people used online poker as a way to socialize with friends and family, resulting in PokerStars’ free-play customers surging by a multiple of seven from the first to second quarter.

The online poker room should see another influx of players and rake as the 2020 World Championship of Online Poker (WCOOP) just began on Sunday. PokerStars’ flagship online tournament series is guaranteeing $80m in total prize pools, the most in its long history. Running through September 23, the 2020 WCOOP will feature 75 triple-tiered events for a total of 225 tournaments.