A large-scale Asian Poker Tour series in Hanoi, Vietnam has been cancelled by organizers midway through amid allegations it was being held in breach of local gambling laws.
The APT Hanoi Billions was eight days into its scheduled 10-day series at the National Convention Center in Hanoi when the APT posted an announcement via its social media channels announcing the cancellation of all remaining tournaments on 9 and 10 December, with players still involved or who had already paid entry fees to receive full refunds.
The APT did not explain the reasons for cancellation, stating only that the decision “has not been made lightly” and is “rooted in extenuating circumstances that have arisen, ones that, despite our utmost efforts, we are unable to overcome.
“The safety and well-being of our players and staff are of paramount importance to us, and we must prioritize these concerns above all else,” it added.
According to people on the ground who spoke to PokerMedia Australia, police visited the National Convention Center on Friday looking for the owners and associates of the APT’s local partner, VSOP Entertainment Company. It is unclear who they spoke to or what was said, but it appears the police threatened to return the following day.
Local media reported Friday that this was a result of a citizen’s complaint sent to the Hanoi People’s Committee and accusing VSOP Entertainment Company of organizing Bridge and poker tournaments without full approval. This is despite the Hanoi Department of Culture and Sports having reportedly sent written permission to VSOP on 13 November agreeing to allow the event to go ahead. PMA sources said they believed VSOP only had one of two necessary permits to run the event.
It has also been claimed that there were concerns around the event’s links to online poker site Natural8, which ran online satellites to the event and was listed as an event sponsor, with signage and logos clearly visible throughout the venue. Natural8, the Asian-based affiliate of GG Poker, is not a legal entity in Vietnam.
It is understood the APT was aware of concerns earlier in the week and had tried to address them: on Tuesday the organizers told players that all remaining mixed games were cancelled and that only flop games were allowed to be dealt. On Wednesday organizers stopped accepting buy-ins using international currency. And on Thursday all Natural8 signage and merchandise stands were removed from the venue, or logos covered.
There were also rumors circulating that APT staff had fled Vietnam in the hours after the police first visited, however the APT confirmed to PMA that this was not the case and that staff were still on the ground as of Saturday. PMA contacted some of those staff directly who confirmed they were safe.
PMA will bring you further updates as they come to light.