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Just a fortnight after the breaking away from its agreement with City of Dreams (COD) a top Macau casino where it operated live poker tournaments, PokerStars has now found a new partner for its pan-Asian operations. PokerStars parent company, The Stars Group has entered a deal with the Chinese hotel, casino and entertainment group (IEC) to run a series of live events across Asia and operate poker rooms in select Asian countries.
If all goes well, the IEC-PokerStars collaboration will breathe fresh energy into PokerStars presence in the live Asian poker circuit. With an already impressive presence across seventeen locations, PokerStars may soon find its way into a wider market with a reach of more than 4.4 billion players, becoming the biggest brand in live poker in Asia.
The formal agreement with IEC has come through between PokerStars and IEC’s subsidiary concern Lucky Genius Ltd. IEC will own the rights to operate PokerStars land-based events, poker rooms under the brand name, ‘Red Spade.’ However, there’s no clear indication on the number of tournaments and poker rooms that the two partners will operate together.
The Star Group has made an official statement on the partnership. “The Stars Group has entered into an agreement with Hong Kong-based International Entertainment Corporation to license the PokerStars brand for land-based live events and poker rooms across Asia. IEC, a publicly listed company, will hold the sole and exclusive rights to run PokerStars branded events in certain Asian countries as mutually agreed by The Stars Group and IEC, which will be operated through a subsidiary.”
The gaming giant had recently stepped out of Macau after ending its partnership with COD where it operated a poker room. The partnership was reportedly not profitable and PokerStars live events in Macau also suffered a setback when its online mechanism for player qualification became inoperable after a blanket ban on online poker was announced by Chinese Ministry of Culture. With the new collaboration PokerStars may soon re-enter Macau for running live events.
Meanwhile IEC, in a statement filed at the Hong Stock Exchange said, “The deal will help us diversify whilst maintaining the group’s core businesses of hotel operations and leasing of properties for casino and ancillary leisure and entertainment operations.”
For IEC that is owned by Manila hotelier and poker professional Stanley Choi and recently made another significant foray into the sporting market by becoming a major shareholder of the English Football League (EFL) Championship side Wigan Athletic, this could be just the stepping stone it needs to dive deeper into the poker and gaming market.