Gambling is prohibited in Mainland China but that hasn’t stopped the Alibaba Sports Group (AliSports) to launch a new International Poker Tour (IPT) that will have stops all over Europe, Asia and North America. AliSports is teaming up with Tencent, one of the leading companies in China that have diverse interests that include gaming.
AliSports is promoting the game of poker as a game of skill and not of chance and hence believes that there should not be a conflict of interest in China. However the debate surrounding poker being a game of skill and chance continues all over the world, including China. The authorities in Mainland China recently broke up the Asia Poker League (APL) event in Shanghai even though the organizers had informed the authorities and obtained the necessary permits to run the APL event.
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AliSports remains confident that it will be able to conduct successful poker events all over the world including China and confirmed the launch of the IPT last week in a press conference held in Shanghai. The IPT organizers state that over $7 million in prize money will be guaranteed and confirmed that one of their first events will be one staged in Shanghai were the guaranteed prize money will be $870,000 with the eventual winner taking home around $200,000. However no dates for the Shanghai event have been announced as of now.
The IPT states that its mission is to grow and develop the game of poker and foster an open, competitive and sporting spirit amongst players participating at its IPT events. There have been unconfirmed reports that the IPT will also organize bridge and chess competitions in an attempt to cross-promote and bring in players from these games into the poker arena.
Alex Dreyfus, the chairman of Mediarex Sports Entertainment, the parent company of the Global Poker Index (GPI) and the Global Poker League (GPL) has gone on record to state that the next poker boom will be in China. Although there are very few poker tournaments held in Mainland China, the game of poker has gained a lot of popularity during the last few years.
In a statement via Facebook, Dreyfus said “Another step towards China embracing the game of poker as a skill game and a sport. You now have the two largest tech companies in China, Tencent and Alibaba, promoting the game of poker.”