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  • Where are the Major Gambling Markets in Asia?

    Published on November 14, 2022

    More than half of the world’s population resides in Asia, which is also the home of many avid gamblers. However, unfortunately for these individuals,  the majority of  Asian countries prohibit gambling. Today, some of the biggest casino operators in the world view Asia as one of the most untapped markets.  With favorable deals offered by the likes of MGM, Wynn, and Las Vegas Sands and the prospect of significant tax money plus pressure from the public, Asian state governments are beginning to reconsider their minds.

    In the past few years, especially since the COVID pandemic devastated what once was a thriving tourism industry, we have observed an increase in the number of legal operations. Let’s look at which Asian nations are preparing to welcome both tourists and locals in their brand-new venues.

    Japan

    For more than a century, the majority of gambling activities have been prohibited in Japan; at the moment, wagers on certain football games, horse races, and pachinko machines are the only types of gambling in Japan that are permitted.

    Japan has witnessed a significant trend toward the licensing of casinos on a bigger scale, thanks to the Integrated Resort (IR) Promotion Act and the Integrated Resort (IR) Improvement Law, which came a few years later. Integrated Resorts are tourist destinations with a hotel, shops, restaurants, and, most significantly, casinos.

    In 2021, the recently created Japan Casino Regulatory Commission also published regulations establishing the requirements for setting up casinos and putting the Specified Integrated Resort Area Development Law into effect. The late Shinzo Abe, a supporter of the initiative and former prime minister,  was reported as stating that he thought these measures would boost tourism and the country’s economy. 

    Philippines

    The Cagayan Economic Zone Authority, which manages licensing for internet operators, and the Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corporations (PAGCOR). which handles licensing for land-based gambling establishments, are the two main regulatory authorities for the Philippine gambling industry.

    Although an online casino is permitted to operate from the Philippines, it is not permitted to offer online gaming services within the country. Ironically, foreign companies are permitted to legally provide Filipinos with online gambling services. Further complicating matters, these offshore casino businesses obtain their licenses PAGCOR, the body that was only created to handle licensing for land-based operations

    China

    With the exception of two state-run lotteries, gambling is forbidden in mainland China. This does not mean, however, that Chinese citizens have nowhere to enjoy casino entertainment. Through some legal loopholes, Macau and Hong Kong, China’s two special administrative territories, are allowed to legally provide gambling entertainment. Seizing the opportunity, China’s neighbors invest heavily in attracting and catering to Chinese gambling tourists through luxury five-star casino resorts.

    Macau

    Due to its huge gambling industry, Macau is known as the Asian “Las Vegas,” and its 41 casinos primarily serve high-rolling professionals rather than visitors. The island perfectly captures the “Vegas vibe,” including the seemingly limitless supply of neon lights and heavily themed hotels and casinos. Online gambling has not been permitted in Macau since 2015.

    Hong Kong

    Taking advantage of its increased independence, China’s other special administrative region, Hong Kong instated the Jockey Club, an institution wherein horse race betting and sports gambling is permitted, but highly regulated. Gambling and sports betting online are entirely banned and foreign online casino sites are actively and effectively blocked. Other forms of gambling, such as land-based casino games, are only permitted outside Hong Kong’s territorial waters, so those who want to gamble are regularly ferried to close by Macau.

    Singapore

    For a long time, Singapore’s gambling options consisted solely of those provided by state-owned businesses: Singapore Pools for lottery-style games and Singapore Turf Club for horse racing and sports betting.

    Prior to 2005, Singapore only permitted gambling through government-run establishments, namely the Turf Club for horse races and sports wagers and the Singapore Pools for lotteries. Casinos were strictly prohibited.

    The Singaporean government began allowing land-based casinos to operate in the nation in 2005, but only in integrated resorts and with a requirement that any tourists who wished to indulge in this form of entertainment pay an admission fee. Only two gambling licenses are available to international operators in order to better regulate the business, and online gambling is prohibited.

    Vietnam

    Vietnam began the process of legalizing gambling fairly recently, in 2018  sports betting was permitted and casinos were opened to tourists. While locals are, for the most part, banned from playing in casinos, there is one initiative to allow the Vietnamese citizens in specifically licensed venues, should they be able to provide proof of monthly income exceeding €370. While many developers are seeking the government’s stamp of approval to build more casinos, only one is currently active, with only one other in development.

    Cambodia

    Only visitors are permitted to gamble at land-based casinos in Cambodia, which is a favorite gambling destination for many of its neighbors whose governments do not yet permit this sort of entertainment. Between 2015 until 2020, online gambling was briefly lawful, but the government has since reversed this decision, making it once again prohibited.

    Malaysia

    Similar to Vietnam and Cambodia, Malaysia only permits tourists to gamble in physical locations; both internet and physical gambling are banned for its own citizens. The good news is that if you’re a Malaysian citizen and you’re found gambling, it won’t be treated as a crime.

    Conclusion

    Although it appears that a legalized Asian gambling market is still a considerable time ahead, positive advances are being made, and more and more states are seeing the advantages of the higher tax revenues and the enhanced security that a regulated market would provide for their citizens.

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