APPT Nanjing Millions shut down by police

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APPT Nanjing Millions shut down by police

Postby DM101 » Sat Apr 18, 2015 12:18 am

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The APPT Nanjing Millions has been dramatically shut down after the Chinese National Police raided the tournament late this afternoon.

Photos taken shortly after the raid show police blocking the entrance to the Wutaishan Sports Center, where the event has been running since Tuesday, and a sign on the door which reads: “Due to the APPT Nanjing Millions tournament being suspected of illegal gambling, the police are now investigating and the event is being ceased. All related staff should go and register at the designated location and co-operate with the police for the investigation.”

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The Nanjing Millions was being run by the team from PokerStars Macau at City of Dreams. WGM tried contacting several Pokerstars Macau staff, including APPT President Danny McDonagh, who is in Nanjing, without success and there is still no word on what this means for either staff or players involved. At this stage there is no word of any arrests.

However, we’re hearing that the office of the tournament organizers has been seized and surrounded by police. Players in the tournament, who had come from all over China to participate, were also nearby looking for an explanation from the organizers but were told they had disappeared.

Prior to the raid, the Nanjing Millions had been a stunning success with the sheer volume of people wanting to register forcing the APPT to add an extra Day 1 flight – pushing the total number of players to over 2,300.

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WGM has long been concerned about live poker events in mainland China but have been reluctant to voice our concerns for fear of possibly contributing to a situation such as this. Our suspicion has always been that one of these events would be raided, especially given the current political climate in China. Now that it has happened maybe it’s time to have a genuine rethink of the whole concept of live poker tournaments in mainland China.

The Asian Poker Tour was forced to postpone its APT China event last year due to difficulties in jumping through the many regulatory hoops required while both the APPT and WPT have faced similar challenges in the past.

This latest development certainly comes as a huge blow to poker in the region and casts a dark shadow over the future of live events in Mainland China.
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PokerStars’ APPT Nanjing Millions now a Criminal Investigati

Postby DM101 » Tue Apr 21, 2015 10:39 pm

The fallout from last Friday’s raid of the APPT Nanjing Millions by Chinese National Police has dramatically escalated with China’s state television broadcaster CCTV among a number of media channels to broadcast the news to the nation.

It has emerged that concerned local citizens tipped off police as to the gambling nature of the event, which involved approximately 2,300 entries at RMB 3,000 each, amassing an estimated total prize pool of around RMB 7 million (US$1,129,000). Given Pokerstars’ standard profit margin of around 13 percent, the gross gaming revenue for event organisers was estimated at approximately RMB 900,000 (US$145,000).

Any hopes Pokerstars or anyone else involved with the tournament had that the situation would slip quietly away have now been well and truly destroyed with as many as one billion Chinese having been told a “criminal event” had taken place. Local Chinese media has reported that Chinese celebrities were involved in the scandal, including Wang Feng (fiancé of Chinese actress and star of Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, Zhang Ziyi), 2008 Olympic shooting gold medalist Qiu Jian and 2004 Olympic table tennis gold medalist Chen Qi.

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PokerStars immediately tried to distance itself from any “official” involvement with the tournament, providing the following statement to WGM:

After three very successful days of tournament poker, the organizers of the Nanjing Millions decided to postpone the event in order to address questions from local authorities. The tournament was sanctioned by the local government through the Jiangsu Provincial Chess Sports Association and held at the Jiangsu Wutaishan Sports Centre, an official Olympic venue. The event itself was organized and operated by a local poker operator, Star Poker Club, and sponsored by APPT China.

We are in contact with Star Poker Club and are seeking additional details. The organizers have issued a statement apologizing for the inconvenience and plan to resume the tournament in the near future.

For PokerStars to claim they were not the organizers of the event is disingenuous. At the time of writing, the event remains on the PokerStars APPT website at http://www.appt.com/tournaments/nanjing (although it may be taken down by the time you read this) and the pictures above and below show poker table layouts proudly displaying both PokerStars and APPT logos on them. The event was referred to as the APPT Nanjing Millions in all promotional material and heavily promoted on social media. APPT is a brand name owned by PokerStars. The APPT Nanjing Millions was being run on an almost identical operational basis to any tournament Pokerstars runs at their permanent Macau home at Melco-Crown’s City of Dreams or any other casino around the world.

We have been hearing a rumor that PokerStars will refund all players their RMB 3,000 entry fee, which equates to around RMB 7 million (US$1,129,000) in total. Why would PokerStars’ offer this if they were not the organizers of the event?

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Back in March, this is what Pokerstars had to say in a press release sent to WGM announcing the APPT Nanjing Millions:

The growth of poker in China has been tremendous and we are committed to support this sport throughout the region,” said APPT President Danny McDonagh. “Nanjing is a key location that allows players from all over the country to participate. The previous two Beijing events last year were very successful and we are proud to be a part of this government-supported event.”

The press release, which identified Pokerstars as an Amaya Inc. company, went on to say that the APPT is owned by Amaya Inc. (TSX: AYA).

Pokerstars’ claim that the Jiangsu Provincial Chess Sports Association sanctioned the event has seemingly been made worthless by Guo Yujun, Director of the Chess Sports Management Center, a division of the State General Sports Administration. Guo confirmed that the Center had never held or approved any Texas Hold’em events of any form, be they live or online, had never recognized it in the national sports program and, most importantly, that in 2012 the Ministry of Public Security had placed Texas Hold’em on the list of crimes.

As for Pokerstars’ statement that the event had been merely “postponed” and there were plans to resume it in the near future – we find that very hard to believe now that CCTV has broadcast to the nation that this event was criminal gambling.

PokerStars has refused to divulge any information whatsoever as to the current situation, including the location or safety of staff members, despite repeated requests from WGM, although APPT President Danny McDonagh, who was present at the Wutaishan Sports Center when it was raided last week, has been in contact with us via email. McDonagh also refused to divulge any specifics but is believed to still be in China and in consultation with local lawyers.

The fate of local organizers, Star Poker Club, is much clearer with the Xinhua News Agency – the official press agency of the People’s Republic of China – reporting that they were “currently under police control … for alleged gambling and criminal activity.”

The Chinese media has been far from kind in its reporting of the APPT Nanjing Millions with CCTV13 (news channel) and CCTV4 (international channel) as well as satellite television station IFENG and a number of online news sites confirming this was a criminal case.

One of the CCTV reports showed the audience a map of where the APPT was holding events in 2015 and questioned why the APPT Nanjing Millions was being held in a sport stadium when every other event was held in a casino. Their inference was that, given any event which makes a profit of more than RMB 5,000 shall be considered illegal gambling, the APPT Nanjing Millions was very much a criminal event.

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The fact that the tournament also featured unlimited rebuys has also come under scrutiny with police pointing to this as a key part of their evidence. A number of players have confirmed the rebuy structure, which has added to its perception as a gambling event.

So what exactly is the law in China when it comes to gambling? A 1997 Chinese Criminal Law identified three primary identifiers for action – opening a gambling house, gathering a crowd of more than 20 people for gambling and making a living from gambling. Opening a gambling house can see offenders sentenced to anything from public surveillance to criminal detention to jail for up to three years. In serious cases the jail sentence can be increased to three to ten years. Gathering a crowd and making a living from gambling are also subject to public surveillance, criminal detention or up to three years jail.

The exact status of poker tournaments under these laws has been considered by some to be a gray area with both the APPT with its record-breaking Beijing Millions and the WPT with its WPT National Sanya having both successfully run tournaments over the past few years.

In both cases this was done with the approval of local authorities, but as we have since learned this means nothing if not officially recognized by the State General Sports Administration in Beijing.

The APPT and WPT will no doubt both claim that local partners misled them regarding the legality of their respective tournaments. However, other tours and organizations have also had the opportunity to hold events in China and opted against doing so after recognizing the dangers. We know this because our parent company World Gaming Group (through its gaming operations arm World Players Entertainment) was one of them. WGG was offered a poker tournament in Beijing earlier this year but declined when promised Central Chinese Government approvals could not be produced.

The Asian Poker Tour, which recently announced APT Vietnam in May, also cancelled its scheduled event in Guangzhou last year for the same reasons. Despite having obtained local clearances, the APT specifically asked their local partners to provide paperwork from provincial and national governments and when these couldn’t be provided they walked away.

Why would PokerStars take such a risk then? It comes down to simple numbers. There is barely an organization on the planet that wouldn’t love to crack the Chinese market and take advantage of the rare financial opportunities its massive population provides – and poker is no different. In its first running, the 2,732 players who contested last year’s Beijing Millions made it the biggest tournament ever held outside the United States and the game’s popularity in China is only going to grow.

This leads us to one of two conclusions – either PokerStars was blinded by the excitement and profits to be had conquering this new frontier or were simply too arrogant to take pause beforehand. Perhaps both have a little truth to them.

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Sadly, we may never know exactly what potential lies behind China’s curtain. We here at WGM would love nothing more than to see the wonderful game of poker flourish in China. But poker organizers around the world must respect the fact that the People’s Republic of China has a right to create and enforce its own laws – and no amount of clutching at loopholes can change that. One thing is for sure – we certainly won’t be seeing any more tournaments of this nature held in the PRC for a long time to come.




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First arrests made over APPT Nanjing Millions

Postby DM101 » Fri Jun 05, 2015 10:40 pm

The investigation into the APPT Nanjing Millions poker tournament, which was shut down by the Chinese National Police following an early morning raid in April, has gained momentum with two representatives of local organizer Star Poker Club formally arrested on suspicion of casino crimes.

Jian Yang and Li Su are accused of opening a gambling house and submitting false application materials to Jiangsu Provincial Chess Sports Association in the lead-up to the event, which had attracted a huge field of around 2,300 entrants before police shut it down early on the morning of April 17. They could face up to 10 years in jail if found guilty of opening a gambling house.

The bigger question now is what this means for the tournament’s co-organizers – the Asia Pacific Poker Tour (APPT) and its parent company PokerStars – with the Nanjing Gulou District Procuratorate confirming the case is still under further investigation.

The APPT had a number of staff present at the Jiangsu Wutaishan Sports Centre, where the Nanjing Millions was held, including APPT President and the face of PokerStars’ Live Poker room at City of Dreams in Macau and Manila, Danny McDonagh, who has since returned to Macau.

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WGM has approached PokerStars on a number of occasions for comment since we first broke the news that police had shut the event down, but after initially promising to get back to us and asking us to delay a follow-up story (which we agreed to) they have gone silent, refusing to return calls or reply to emails. They did, however, ensure key staff across the globe were briefed on the official company line, with every single PokerStars person we spoke to immediately spruiking that “the APPT was only a sponsor of the event” – in many cases before we even asked a question.

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Jian’s arrest will put that claim to the test.

A well-known figure in the Asian poker community, Jian made headlines in 2013 when he was named PokerStars Asia Player of the Year (APOY) after a series of strong tournament results including victory in both the ACOP Platinum Series main event and the ACOP HK$25,000 warm-up. His prize included a one-year sponsorship with PokerStars Macau for all championship events in Asia through 2014.

Yet it was his role as Principal of Beijing’s Star Poker Club that opened the door for a more intimate relationship with the APPT and in July last year, Star Poker Club hosted the largest tournament ever held outside the United States with 2,732 players taking part in the PokerStars.net Beijing Millions.

There would be no police raid on that occasion, but comments made by Jian at the time seem particularly telling in hindsight given PokerStars’ defence that “the APPT was only a sponsor” of the APPT Nanjing Millions.

In a press release sent out, ironically, by PokerStars itself immediately after the Beijing Millions, Jian said, “I'm so happy to run such a successful event in Beijing and have the support of APPT and the event organizers from the Beijing Sports and Administration Centre.

“APPT is a professional event management group capable of running major international poker tournaments and together we created a miracle with the Beijing Millions.

“I hope the cooperation between APPT and Star Poker will strengthen and develop poker further in China.”

The charges against Jian and Li include one of submitting false application materials to Jiangsu Provincial Chess Sports Association.

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At the heart of this charge against Jian and Li is the agreement they signed with Jiangsu Provincial Chess Sports Association. Operating as Beijing He Si Cheng Sports Culture Transmission Co Ltd, it is claimed that when the agreement was signed, Jian and Li registered the event as the “2015 China Jiangsu Poker Tournament (and GSPT Texas Hold’em Intelligence Competition)”. However, when the tournament started the name had been changed to show “2015 China Jiangsu Poker Tournament (and APPT CHINA Nanjing)”.

WGM has learned from sources familiar with the investigation that a false submission such as this which avoided using the term “APPT” – a name already synonymous with poker – would be an effective means of avoiding the numerous approval procedures that would have been required had full details been disclosed. This is especially so given the arguments some make about the subtle distinctions between poker and gambling would likely fall on deaf ears in mainland China. It is contended the duo knew they were no chance of gaining approval from all the required levels of government, given China’s rigid anti-gambling laws, should the name “APPT” appear on the application.

The APPT Nanjing Millions was subsequently promoted as being sanctioned by the Jiangsu Provincial Chess Sports Association but the Association claims they were lied to by the organizers, accusing them of hiding information, cheating and fraudulent conduct.

The matter has been considered serious enough for China’s state-run national broadcaster, CCTV, to run a long format investigative report on its well-respected “Focus Report” TV show. According to the investigative report, had the APPT name been presented in the original application, it would have gone to the Provincial Sports Bureau who would then forward it to the State Administration of Sports for approval who in turn would send it to the Provincial Foreign Affairs Department to approve as well. Even then, the event would not have been sanctioned by the Chinese Central Government or its main agencies.

In 1997 Chinese Criminal Law made stipulations on opening gambling houses or gathering a crowd of more than 20 people for gambling. Such activity is to be punished by a fixed-term imprisonment up to three years, criminal detention or public surveillance while the punishment for opening gambling houses can be extended up to 10 years if the circumstances are deemed serious.

The CCTV “Focus Report” explained that for activity to be considered gambling, just ONE of the following three criteria must be satisfied:


The activity is for the purpose of profit, and that is at least RMB 5,000
The total amount gambled was at least RMB 50,000
The number of people involved was more than 20


Given the Nanjing Millions had 2,359 entrants each paying RMB 3,000 – of which 10 percent comprised the registration fee – the “gambling amount” totalled more than RMB 6.3 million with the profit for organizers RMB 707,700. This certainly looks like illegal gambling activity by all three definitions.

What remains to be seen from here is what role Chinese authorities deem the APPT to have played in the organization and running of the Nanjing Millions.

Neither the Nanjing authorities or PokerStars are speaking about the matter just yet but it seems there could still be plenty of noise made in the coming months.

Source: WCG
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