Source AP ©

World Poker Tour to sign agreement with China despite country's gambling ban

Tournament poker is coming to China - a country that still strictly outlaws all forms of gambling.

World Poker Tour Enterprises Inc. said it would sign an agreement on Monday with the China Leisure Sports Administrative Center.

The partnership will "promote the sport of poker, by helping to create, expand and commercialize China's first ever national poker competition," World Poker Tour Enterprises said in a statement.

It said the partnership agreement would run for five years, with an option to extend. Additional details weren't given and it wasn't clear what stakes participants would play for.

Interest in poker has exploded in the United States in the past few years with the advent of televised tournaments such as the WPT and the World Series of Poker. Los Angeles, California-based WPT Enterprises Inc. signed a licensing deal earlier this year with Game Show Network LLC for the sixth season of its World Poker Tour television series.

However, China represents a different challenge because the Communist government forbids gambling, categorizing it as a form of criminal, anti-social behavior along the lines of prostitution and drug use.

Former lawyer Steve Lipscomb, WPT's founder, president and CEO, was due to attend the signing ceremony at a Beijing hotel on Monday.