Flutter Entertainment Plc is pulling its PokerStars business out of China, Macau and Taiwan, exiting one of the world's largest online gaming markets.
Size notwithstanding, it has been an area fraught with potential regulatory peril. While Chinese gaming handled 231 billion Chinese yuan ($33.8 billion) of business in 2018, Beijing banned online poker the following year.
“We have been reviewing the compliance standards and market exposures of the combined group following our combination with The Stars Group,” a Flutter spokesperson said in a statement. “There were a small number of The Stars Group jurisdictions that Flutter had previously determined it would not operate in and in such cases, these markets are being switched off.”
Flutter closed on its $6 billion all-stock merger with Toronto-based online gaming company The Stars Group in May. The deal gave Flutter, which owns fantasy sports-betting site FanDuel, deeper penetration into the U.S. sports gambling market, which was legalized in 2019.
The Stars Group owned gambling sites including PokerStars, Full Tilt and FOX Bet.
Flutter, which seeks to secure a Top 3 position in regulated markets such as the UK, Ireland and the US, expects to take a hit of 65 million British pounds per year as a result of its responsible gaming enhancements and the switch-offs. The company did not break out the numbers but said the majority of that will be due to the former.
Flutter shares, which are traded on the London Stock Exchange, were up 26% this year through Thursday.