On the eve of the HKD $2 million Macau High Stakes Challenge, the future of poker in Macau has been dealt a severe blow with news that the government has backflipped on plans to change the way poker tables were to be counted under the general table cap of 5500 live table games.
Business Daily is reporting that the plans of Sands China and Wynn Macau to invest in poker development under the new table count policy are now unlikely to proceed.
Last week, a government source confirmed that if a casino was operating up to 20 poker tables in the same area, the regulator would count them as only one table.
Chinese-language newspaper Macau Daily News yesterday quoted the Gaming Inspection and Coordination Bureau as saying such a policy “does not exist”.
However, several gaming industry sources contacted by PMA said otherwise, adding that the government only decided to do a U-turn on the new counting method once it was reported in the media.
That stirred up a political storm as the Macau government had pledged to Beijing that the number of live gaming tables would increase above 5500 until next year.
A source at Sands China said the company would probably not invest the USD $5 million and “may remove poker altogether as it’s not an optimal use of table count”.
Casino operators said they could not understand the U-turn, considering that poker and mahjong are regarded as “social games” of “insignificant value” to casinos.
Ironically, Macau is preparing to host the biggest tournament ever played in Asia tomorrow (Friday).
As Poker Portal Asia reported earlier this week, at least 80 players have signed up for the tournament, which is expected to net over HKD $200 million prize pool or approximately AUD $20 million.
The Super High Roller tournament is being played at the StarWorld Hotel and Casino. There is also an optional rebuy of HKD $2,000,000!
A number of well-known poker pros and personalities, as well as celebrities, are expected to be in attendance in the Macau High Stakes Challenge, which is sponsored by the Neptune Group and PokerAce.tv.
The field is expected to include Phil Ivey, Andrew Robl, Sam Trickett, John Juanda, Erik Seidel, Johnny Chan and Australia’s Joe Hachem.