On paper, the Asian market would appear to be one of the highest untapped online gambling markets currently in existence. It covers approximately 60% of the world’s population, boasts highly educated people with easy access to the latest technology and in many cases an impressive amount of disposable income.
However, due to religious and political regions, many Asian countries hold a negative view of gambling in any form, only allowing it at land-based venues to make more money off their foreign visitors.
To gain a better understanding of the specific views of major regions, what they currently allow and what developments are in the pipeline we discuss Asia under three headings:
Asia’s Shining Stars: regions where gambling is thriving
Diamonds in the Rough: regions most likely to allow online gambling
Here Be Dragons: regions where all gambling is banned
These heading refer to the region’s stance on gambling, whether they are open to online gambling or not will be discussed as part of its review.
Asia’s Shining Stars
While gambling faces opposition across most of Asia there are two regions where the pastime is welcome with open arms, Macau, and the Philippines.
Macau (also correctly spelt Macao) is the hub of Asian gambling, often being referred to as the Las Vegas of East. Though while Las Vegas might have Macau beat when it comes to landmass the former Portuguese colony has been known to generate three times the revenue of Vegas, reaching nearly $30 billion in 2019.
In addition to being a global tourist destination, Macau also serves as China’s gambling outlet. While gambling in China is strictly forbidden its citizens may travel to Macau to gamble without fear of reprisal.
While gambling in Macau is open to all who land there the one area where there is still some resistance to online gambling. Much of this resistance is thought to be since so many Chinese business people gamble in Macau and the Chinese government concerns about controlling what its citizens do online.
When it comes to noteworthy eCommerce markets the Philippines is unlikely to make your top list however market research proves that this is an up and coming online sales hot spot. A recent market forecast report by Statista shows that online sales in the Philippines should surpass the $5 billion mark by the end of 2021.
This sizeable investment in online retail is not purely from a small segment of big spenders. GlobalWebIndex reported that of the 110 million people living in the Philippines more than 69 million are regular internet users with 75% of those aged between 16 and 64 already active online shoppers.
This bodes well for the potential of online gambling when one considers that not only does the Philippines have a well-regulated gambling economy, but it allows offshore casino operators to offer online slots and other casino games to Filipino players.
There is some confusion regarding holding a Filipino license since two options are on offer. The country’s two gambling boards, the Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corporation (PAGCOR) and the Cagayan Economic Zone Authority (CEZA), each offer their own license. However, neither license allows the licensee to offer casino games within the border of the country.
In an ideal world, PAGCOR and CEZA can create a joint license agreement that allows the operation of an online casino within the Philippines that can also target Filipino players. For now, offshore casinos are free to reap the benefits of the Filipino love of online shopping and entertainment.
Diamonds In The Rough
These Asian gambling jurisdictions may offer casino games but only under heavily restricted circumstances. While they are not free gambling markets with their proverbial “toe in the water” they are best positioned to pivot to an open-license system.
As with Macau, Hong Kong is seen as an administrative region of China. This means that while the region is afforded some level of autonomy China feels empowered to step in and change or amend laws as they see fit.
This has led to Hong Kong having a thriving local gambling market where players over the age of 18 can gamble at any of the country’s approved venues. All land-based betting in Hong Kong falls under the monopoly of the Hong Kong Jockey Club.
To enjoy a night playing blackjack, roulette or even the slots one will have to board a dedicated gambling cruise ship which then goes out beyond the island’s legal territory before any casino gambling can take place.
Online gambling is once again heavily restricted due to China’s influence over Hong Kong. However, Hong Kong is currently undergoing a resurgence in the call for its independence from China. Should they succeed, this could see the online casino market become a key player in their financial growth.
India is one of those territories that holds a lot of potential for offshore casino operators despite gambling being illegal in the country. The reason for this is their lack of clarity in formulating their laws.
India’s Public Gambling Act (1867) and Prize Competition Act (1955) in no way address online gambling due to the era in which they were composed. Despite this, they are still the applicable gambling laws in the country.
The government did write the Information Technology Act of 2000 into law however this fails to define either gambling or online gambling and does not specifically address whether games of chance or games of skill are legal or illegal.
With a growing middle class, large scale internet penetration (specifically amongst mobile users) and a population of 1.3 billion adults (over 18 years of age) India is one of the hottest online gambling markets in the world.
Historically gambling in Japan has been frowned upon as it was seen as a wasteful way to risk hard-earned money or property. However, in 2018 the government approved a change in the local laws which would allow for the development of three integrated casino resorts (IR).
The recent plans to break ground on the first IR in Yokohama later this year came to a grinding halt when anti-casino mayoral candidate Takeharu Yamanaka won the election. However, there are still four other cities, Tokyo, Nagasaki, Osaka, and Wakayama, which are open to being the first casino resort in Japan.
While it is early days for casino gambling in Japan the legalisation of a once-banned activity is a massive step in the right direction. And with casino operators such as Melco Resorts and Entertainment, Sega Sammy Holdings Inc, Shotoku Corp, and Genting, Singapore Ltd pushing the development ahead we are hopeful for the inclusion of an online casino app in their roadmap.
Following Japan’s lead 2018 also saw Vietnam unexpectedly legalise betting on greyhound and horse races, begin accepting bets on soccer matches and open several land-based casinos to serve foreign visitors.
The country is also currently testing the viability of allowing locals to gamble in these casinos given that they meet certain criteria such as a minimum income threshold. Given the country’s history of severely restricting gambling and punishing those who contravene its laws, this is a major breakthrough for the industry in Vietnam.
While there is no specific intention to address online gambling in the immediate future, we are hopeful that the local gambling authority will view online and mobile casinos as a natural technological extension of its land-based casino development.
Here Be Dragons
There are several Asian territories where online gambling in any form is simply not looking to make any headway.
These regions include:
These bastions of human rights and freedom are known to take punitive measures against citizens who gamble either online or offline, including prison time, heavy fines and even blacklisting at local financial institutions.
Cryptocurrency and Gambling in Asia
One of the game-changing new technologies for online gambling in restrictive Asian markets has the development and adoption of cryptocurrencies. When it comes to gambling with Bitcoin these casino fans finally have a way to get around the local government policies that block their ability to make deposits or request withdrawals when playing online.
However, it is not only the those looking to circumvent local gambling regulation who are looking to Bitcoin and its peers. Asian markets that offer legal online gambling are considering the adoption of cryptocurrencies to reduce costs, offer safer and more secure gambling transactions and appeal to foreign gamblers once they leave the country and head home.
It is expected that markets like the Philippines who have such an active eCommerce market could lead the way in gambling with crypto as local users begin to adopt altcoins and stable coins for daily online purchases.
Where To From Here?
While the road to a fully licensed and regulated Asian gambling market is a long and bumpy one there are some amazing developments with once hard locked regions opening their doors to casinos – even if only for foreign passport holders.
Yet as these regions become comfortable with the idea of gambling, can prove that it does not undermine the fabric of their culture, and begins to add to the government’s coffers, there is hope for adoption to speed up.
The more Asian countries become pro-gambling, the more opportunities it presents for online gambling to take hold and flourish.