China will prohibit some online gaming services that can be used to pay for illegal gambling, the country’s top gaming regulator said on Monday, in a move that could further complicate a crackdown on online gambling.
In a statement, the State Administration of Press, Publication, Radio, Film and Television (SAPPRFT) said online gambling should be prohibited, even for the people who gamble for a living.
It cited a report that the state-owned China National Poker Corp. was planning to establish a subsidiary that will create gambling services for poker machines, but the news was not immediately clear whether it would be limited to online poker or more broadly.
The SAPPRFT said it was not possible to estimate how many people are using online gambling in China.
“In the present case, we are concerned that online gambling companies could use online poker services as a means of funding illegal gambling,” the agency said in the statement.
“The State Administration is concerned that some online poker players could engage in illegal gambling through the use of online poker,” it added.
The state has cracked down on online gaming since 2013, when authorities cracked down heavily on online poker platforms such as Taobao and WeChat, where players can play poker using real-time money exchange and deposit/withdrawal tools.
Online poker services are legal in China, but are illegal to play with virtual currencies such as bitcoins and ether, the digital currencies that have become increasingly popular among gambling users.
China has also been under scrutiny over the role that gambling platforms are playing in the country.
The country’s central bank last year warned that some gambling sites could pose a threat to the country, while the authorities have said they are trying to crack down on such platforms.
In its statement, SAPPRFF said the “public interest” outweighed the “legal interests” of online gambling firms.