Conservatism and tradition have long been obstacles against the legalization of gambling activities in Asia. In recent years, there has been a noticeable change in attitudes towards land-based casinos, lotteries and horse racing. In many Asian countries, these activities are fully supported by the local governments through legislation. In some areas, namely The Philippines and Macau, casinos even provide a substantial source of revenues for its respective countries in the form of taxes and tourism.
Where Asian is truly lagging the rest gambling world is in its acceptance of online gambling, namely casino gambling and sports betting. Not much has changed in this area in recent years, by there are rumblings changes may be on the horizon.
Here’s an update on the state of online gambling in some of Asia’s most populated countries.
China – China’s mainland continues to keep a tight grip over illegal online gambling within its borders. This do this very much in favor of the state-sponsored Chinese Sports Lottery that offers very poor returns to the bettors. There’s little doubt illegal online casino and sport gambling are taking place, creating pressure on regulators to try to come down on both operators and citizens who dare to defy the government. The outlook for future legalization is not good.
Taiwan – Hong Kong – Both of these countries have legalized forms of gambling that include a sports lottery, horse racing and some betting sources that provide access to wagering opportunities on local soccer matches. While online gambling is strictly prohibited, motivated online gambling enthusiasts can usually get access to some international online betting sites that fall outside these countries’ jurisdictions. Given the popularity of gambling in Hong Kong, it’s possible this is one country that could start taking a look at legalizing online casino gambling in the next couple of years.
Macau – Within the last couple of years, Macau has become the world’s most popular gambling mecca based on annual revenues. In fact, high rollers from heavily regulated Asian counties like Hong Kong and mainland China send a lot of gambling junkets into Macau, losing billions in potential tax and fee revenues every year. A close look at Macau’s gambling regulations indicate there is nothing on the books that makes said activities illegal. Most likely, the country would not allow online gambling operators to set up shop in Macau, but it’s also clear there’s no concerted effort to keep residents from using international online gambling websites for sports betting and casino gambling. In the near future, it wouldn’t be surprising to see Macau’s gambling regulator make a move towards allowing the country’s mega gambling properties to develop online gambling services tied to the casinos.
The Philippines – While notably conservative regarding most vices, The Philippines has embraced the opportunity to claim revenues from gambling taxes and tourism through a progressive attitude towards online gambling. Currently, several of the nation’s land-based casino operators have licenses to allow online sports gambling for residents only. The nation has also gained international acclaim for its willingness to allow international online gambling operators to set up shop in the Philippines under the provision residents are strictly prohibited from using said services. Among the Asian countries outside of Macau, The Philippines holds the exclusive distinction of having well-respected governance over the gambling industry in general through one of two agencies, the Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corporation (PAGCOR) and the Cagayan Special Economic Zone and Freeport. Like Macau, it would seem just a matter of time before the country moves forward and legalizes more forms of online gambling.
Singapore and Japan – These two countries sit on polar opposites of the gambling spectrum. In Singapore, most forms of gambling are strictly forbidden, and laws are aggressively enforced. They do allow some forms of online gambling through a couple of non-profit operators. In Japan, most forms of gambling are a welcome part of society. While the country does not currently allow operators to set up shop in Japan, residents find very little resistance should they choose to gamble through international online operators. The Japanese are a favorite target of online operators licensed in the Philippines and parts of Europe. This is yet another country that could well move forward and legalize online casino and sports gambling in lieu of losing revenues to other Asian countries.