AsianLogic Ltd., the Hong Kong land-based and online gambling operator, has done a deal with C Y Foundation Group Ltd. to launch an online, player-to-player games network targeting mainland China.
With Chinese gaming and gambling regulations having been described to IGamingNews as fickle by one commentator who has worked in the region, AsianLogic's chief executive, Thomas A. Hall, explained the new offering comprises a proven, aboveboard business model.
"This is play-for-fun, play-for-points and subscription-based gaming," Mr. Hall wrote in an e-mail to IGN Tuesday. "Your source is correct that play-for-real gambling is illegal in China other than that offered by the Ministry of Sport and Ministry of Welfare Lotteries divisions.
"This is a proven business model with the most well-known (and arguably largest P2P site in the world) being QQ, which is owned by Hong-Kong listed company Tencent Inc. This form of gaming can be advertised freely," he added.
The joint agreement, announced Monday, covers the 178world gaming portal, the gaming platform for which C Y Foundation, a company specializing in China's p-to-p online tournament market, launched initially in May 2007. The portal offers daily tournaments, an online game community, social networking, forums and prizes.
AsianLogic and C Y Foundation marketing teams are to jointly develop a national branding campaign, highlighting a point system whereby winnings can be exchanged for gifts. The campaign will also emphasize the portal's tournaments, which will feature a variant of Texas Hold'em conforming to Beijing's legal requirements.
"The game play / game logic of the Texas Hold'em mentioned is Texas Hold'em as you would know it," Mr. Hall said, "and is little different to a typical Pokerstars or IPoker poker client, other than it has been modified and localized in look and feel to meet Chinese regulatory requirements, and obviously, to suit the Chinese marketplace."
Furthermore, Mr. Hall said the server array that supports the 178world games network is based in China. To ensure compliance with Beijing, protocols are in place to keep the network free of international players, he said, meaning that only Chinese residents are allowed to participate.
When asked about licensing requirements for this deal, Mr. Hall said both AsianLogic and C Y Foundation maintain subsidiaries or joint venture partners that are allowed to launch promotional and marketing campaigns from relevant Web and portal sites.
Additionally, he said, any software that will be offered to the public must be submitted to a two-step approval process.
First, the company that develops the software must hold an "ISBN license," which effectively states it is an approved software developer; second, the game itself must be submitted for approval by China's highest cultural administrative organ, the Ministry of Culture.
"All the games being offered have gone through this process and are approved," Mr. Hall said, "and the method through which they are marketed online is also licensed.
"There are many publicly quoted companies in the US, HK and China itself that offer games in this form, so we see little legal risk to executive staff," he added.
The network, 178games.com, is set to go live in September and, in addition to Texas Hold'em, will feature Do-Di-Zhu, Cho-Da-Di and mah-jongg.