Canadian gambling giant and owner of PokerStars, The Stars Group, has allegedly granted an Asian company to operate its live poker tournaments in certain countries across Asia. This was announced Friday by the Hong Kong-based International Entertainment Corporation which hotel and entertainment operations in the Philippines and Macau. The Stars Group, however, still has not confirmed the deal.
In a voluntary announcement to its shareholders, the International Entertainment Corp. says that it has entered into a live events and poker room collaboration agreement with The Stars Group. The notice published on Friday, May 18, clarifies that the company has reached the deal on May 17 through its wholly-owned subsidiary, Lucky Genius Limited. The agreement has been signed not by The Stars Group, but by one of its “member companies”. It is not clear, however, which subsidiary of the Canadian gambling giant has inked the document. Nor The Stars Group, neither any of its companies has confirmed the news.
The announcement, signed by International Entertainment Corp.’s Chairman, Dr. Chiu Fai Choi, very vaguely lists the conditions of the cooperation agreement. According to the document, The Stars Group has granted Lucky Genius Limited the right to operate live poker tournaments and land-based poker rooms in “certain” Asian countries. The announcement does not list the exact Asian countries in question, but it adds that Lucky Genius Limited will be able to manage and operate poker events under the PokerStars brand. The Hong Kong-based company has several subsidiaries that operate in different areas, including gaming, hospitality, entertainment, music production, and more.
Its Chairman is also known as Stanly Choi, a Mergers and Acquisitions expert and a professional poker player who has over $7 million in live cash earnings, $6 million of which won in a single tournament. In 2012, he won the 2012 Macau High Stakes Challenge Super High Roller in Macau, taking nearly $6.5 million for his first place in the event.
Why Will Another Company Operates PokerStars Events in Asia
In its announcement, International Entertainment Corp. cites its reasons for entering a cooperation agreement with the Canadian owner of PokerStars, CrownBet, and Full Tilt Poker. It aims to diversify its business and its offerings while keeping focused on its core business – its hotel operations and the leasing of properties for casinos and other leisure and entertainment purposes. But why would The Stars Group let another company manage the PokerStars tournaments in Asia? It has already entered this lucrative market, which is expected to grow even more rapidly in the following years.
Recently, Macau poker rooms have taken serious blows following media reports that the Chinese government has decided to ban social poker games, i.e. poker apps that are not played with real money but for free. The agreement between PokerStars and the City of Dreams in Macau ended earlier this month, closing the extremely popular live poker room in the resort. Other options such as the International Poker Tour and the cash games at the Galaxy Macau are also no longer available to the local poker community.
With the increasingly restrictive Chinese policy against poker, the country is forcing operators out of Macau. With this move, PokerStars may be trying to maintain its presence in the local market without risking to attract any unwanted attention.