In recent weeks, IAG has heard unsubstantiated rumors that officials from Chinese online poker and board game company Ourgame International Holdings Ltd had been arrested in the wake of a mainland government crackdown on online poker applications.
Those rumors have now been at least partially confirmed with Ourgame – owner of the World Poker Tour and one of China’s leading poker application operators – revealing that six employees of its subsidiary Beijing Lianzhong Co, Ltd were detained by authorities in Henan Province for using the company’s platform to “engage in personal activities contrary to the gambling laws of the PRC.”
In a filing to the Hong Kong Stock Exchange, Ourgame said that six employees had been arrested and “subject to potential prosecution by the public security bureau of Henan Province.” However, the company has quickly distanced itself from the individuals, adding, “None of these six individuals is a director of the company. The company has established a committee to look into this matter and engaged external PRC legal counsel to report to the relevant public security authorities regarding preliminary evidence found relating to such employees’ behavior.
“To the extent that any authorities in Henan Province or elsewhere in China request the group’s cooperation, the group will cooperate fully with any such requests. Following their investigation of the situation, including discussions with the relevant authorities, the Company’s PRC legal counsel has opined that the purported illegal activities were related to the personal actions of the relevant individuals and do not involve any illegal actions on the part of the group.
“The board of directors of the company wishes to clarify that neither the company nor any member of the group has been notified by any government or regulatory authority in China of the commencement of any investigation or proceedings against them.”
It had previously been reported by Chinese media that at least one official from Ourgame was extradited from Thailand to China last month, although this has not been confirmed.
The arrests of six employees comes just three weeks after Chinese authorities announced that poker will no longer be recognized as a competitive sport and banned the promotion of Texas Hold’em via social media applications.
The ban will require all apps offering any form of social poker game to be shut down and removed from app stores by 1 June. Social media channels such as WeChat will also be banned from promoting any form of Texas Hold’em product.
Ourgame released a statement at the time in which it promised to examine and correct its poker offerings in order to satisfy the new regulations.
The company said that it had been responsible for providing hundreds of millions of players with “high-end intellectual tournaments and events.
“This not only plays an important role in the creation of social, cultural and economic values, it also acts as a bridge between China and the world’s intellectual sports,” it said. “Ourgame will continue to introduce and hold more top-level intellectual sports events and promote the global spread of chess and card culture.
“In the future, Ourgame will actively respond to the ‘National Fitness’ strategy, promote the popularization and development of intellectual sports, meet the leisure and entertainment needs of the masses and at the same time, we will consciously assume the responsibility of supervision and control and conduct real-time supervision on violations in the game. We will supervise and clean up, increase monitoring of problem accounts and user behaviors, ensure the healthy, fair and harmonious game environment and jointly promote the standardized and healthy online game market.”
Last week, another poker app operator Alisports announced that a new event scheduled for the week of 16 to 20 May, the International Poker Tour Macau, has been cancelled as a direct result of China’s poker crackdown.