The Asian market is establishing itself as a leading region in the gambling sphere, producing a substantial amount of the world’s gambling revenue. A few factors have contributed to this, such as the large populations in some Asian countries, like India and China, and the continued improvement of Asian countries’ economies.
Here, we’ll look at some of the most relevant nations in the Asian gambling market, including online gambling in Asia, some of the most popular Asian casinos and destinations for gambling in Asia, and some regulations platform operators must consider for online Asian casinos.
Where in Asia is Gambling Legal?
While the gambling industry is rapidly developing in the region, not all countries allow gambling activities. In Muslim-majority Asian countries, gambling is often illegal. In countries where gambling is legal, it is very strictly controlled by special regulatory authorities. In some countries, gambling is only legal for non-citizens. The following countries allow at least some form of gambling in at least one area:
|China||Aside from state-run lotteries, gambling is only legal in Macau and Hong Kong|
|Japan||A recently-passed bill will legalize casino games in 3 Integrated Resorts. Lotteries and some forms of sports betting are legal, but gambling overall is strictly controlled.|
|Singapore||Two casinos share a duopoly. Two other organizations control lotteries and sports betting.|
|The Philippines||Casinos are licensed through PAGCOR, the Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corporation, as well as by a few special economic zone authorities.|
|India||Gambling is only officially legal in a few select provinces. Legal status of poker is debated.|
|South Korea||Most casinos are only for visiting foreigners. There is only one casino where South Koreans can gamble.|
|Vietnam||For a long time, only foreign passport holders could gamble in Vietnam, but in the past few years the government has been experimenting with legalization.|
|Cambodia||Gambling is illegal for Cambodian citizens, but illegal gambling is widespread.|
|Malaysia||The few casinos that exist in Malaysia can only cater to foreign clientele.|
|Taiwan||Poker and casinos are illegal, but land-based sports betting is allowed. Online casino games are illegal, but online sports betting is allowed.|
Prominent Gambling Areas in Asia
Specialized gambling zones across Asia attract millions of gambling fans from all over the world every year. Several countries have developed gambling resort centres with everything for great pastime: hotels, swimming pools, cinemas, and shops, as well as betting and gambling venues. These include Marina Bay Sands and Resorts World Sentosa in Singapore, Galaxy Macau and Wynn Macau in Macau, Casino Royale, Deltin Royale, and Casino Pride in Goa, and many more in cities like Manila and Hong Kong.
Development of the gambling business in Macau
Macau, an administrative region of the People's Republic of China, is one of the only Chinese regions where gambling is permitted. Gambling was legalized in 1847. However, rapid development of the industry didn't begin until 1962, when the Sociedade de Turismo e Diverses de Macau (STDM) was granted a monopoly over gambling activities in the region.
Known as the Vegas of the East, Macau's 49 casinos bring in around $28 billion in annual revenue - more than 3 times as much as Las Vegas's 135. Macau's lack of a tax on winnings has made it a favorite among serious Asian gamblers.
In 2002, the STDM monopoly expired and the operators of STDM subsidiary Sociedade de Jogos de Macau - MGM, Galaxy Entertainment Group, Las Vegas Sands and Wynn Resorts - entered the market.
Macau Gaming Revenue
As seen in the chart above, Macau’s Gross Gaming Revenue fell steeply from 2014 to 2015, and dropped slightly from 2015 to 2016. However, in 2017, growth rose by nearly 20 percent, and in January 2018, Macau’s gross gaming revenue from casinos increased by 35%, the highest increase since February 2014, indicating that a full recovery is on the way. Some experts expect Macau's gambling revenue to hit $40 billion in 2018.
The dip in GGR was likely caused by the mainland government’s attempts to exert more control over Macau in an effort to combat corruption and money laundering. This has also led to an increase of Chinese visitors to places like the Philippines and Singapore.
To date, 33 land-based establishments operate in Macau with about 850 gaming tables and 4,000 slot machines. Galaxy Macau, Wynn Macau, City of Dreams, Grand Lisboa, and The Venetian are the most famous gambling houses in Macau.
Online Gambling in Macau
All types of gambling are allowed in Macau: land-based casinos, betting terminals, lotteries, poker, and sports betting. The legal status of online gambling, however, is in limbo, as Macau authorities neither issue online gambling licenses nor prohibit online gambling activities. Thus, users can gamble online without worrying about the consequences. This contrasts greatly with other nearby gambling regions such as mainland China, Singapore, and Taiwan, where online gambling is strictly prohibited.
Gambling is legal in Hong Kong at a few regulated outlets. The Hong Kong Jockey Club has a monopoly on all sports betting, from horse racing to football, and it generates the highest level of horse racing profit in the world. There are a total of six legal gambling facilities, including casinos, in Hong Kong.
Development of the gambling business
Under British rule, gambling was banned in 1829, driving it underground. After British colonial rule ended, the newly-formed state of Singapore banned all forms of gambling, but found the law difficult to enforce.
The exception was the state lottery, Singapore Pools, which was established in 1968. Later, Singapore pools expanded its reach to include sports betting. Over the next few decades, the situation remained unchanged, until the country suffered an economic crisis in the 2000s. This prompted the local government to reconsider its position on land-based gambling.
For the first time in many years, a bill on the legalization of gambling in Singapore was considered, in 2005. Due to a conflict between different religious communities and concerns over social issues, the bill was the subject of some very heated debate. Nevertheless, the state's unsteady position in the economic market and the authorities' arguments in favor of legalization prevailed.
In 2006, the law on partial legalization of gambling in Singapore was adopted, with an agreement that the government would issue two casino licenses within ten years, effectively creating a duopoly.
In a policy enacted to attract tourism but discourage domestic gambling, foreign visitors enter casinos for free while Singaporean residents must pay a fee or purchase a yearly membership. However, this has not discouraged Singaporeans as much as was intended; a G2 Gaming Capital report showed that per person, Singaporean gamblers lose the second most money in the world, out-spent only by Australians.
The Largest Casinos in Singapore
There are two casinos in Singapore.
- Resorts World Sentosa
The Resorts World Sentosa casino is the largest gambling complex in Singapore, located on Sentosa Island. It occupies more than 15 thousand square meters. The casino has more than 2.5 thousand slot machines and 1 thousand tables. As an Integrated Resort, Resorts World Sentosa offers not only gambling but a variety of options for rest and relaxation.
- Marina Bay Sands
The complex’s unusual design was created by Israeli architect Moshe Safdie. Restaurants, cinemas, a hotel, swimming pools, and a wide variety of other entertainments are included. There are more than 600 tables, 1.5 thousand slot machines, and several VIP-halls for high rollers.
The Resorts World Sentosa and Marina Bay Sands are among the most prestigious and expensive casinos in the world, and they are top destinations for gambling in Asia.
Online gambling in Singapore
Officially, online gambling in Singapore is prohibited. Local operators initiated an attempt to legalize gambling in the country in 2013 but had no success. The government of Singapore rejected the initiative, arguing that online games can be a great way to launder money obtained illegally.
In 2015, there was a second attempt to solve the gambling legalization issue, but the authorities refused again. In 2016, two operators managed to get the appropriate permission to run an online gambling business. Singapore Pools and Singapore Turf Club now offer their respective lottery and sports betting services online. These operators do not have table games and video slots on their websites.
Singapore Gambling Revenue
Singaporeans spent massive sums of money gambling even before the country’s two integrated resorts were opened in 2010. Reports estimated that in 2004, Singaporeans spent roughly $7 billion on gambling, excluding the value of the illegal betting market. Revenues quickly surged after the two casinos were opened.
However, like Macau, Singapore’s revenues seem to have been hit by the emergence of rival gambling markets in nearby countries, as earnings have plateaued in the last few years, and most estimates are pointing towards a downturn in the foreseeable future.
Casino operators in Singapore pay a 5 percent tax on all revenue from “Premium Players”, or those who have opened a deposit account with $100,000 or more, and 15 percent on revenue from all other players. These taxes are set to increase slightly in 2022.
Gambling business in India
In India, gambling is only allowed in the states of Goa and Sikkim and the district of Daman. It is also possible to obtain a license to operate online skill-based games in the state of Nagaland. Technically, games involving "a substantial amount of skill and intellect" are legal, and there is a debate as to whether poker falls into that particular category.
The Indian gaming market is tightly regulated and dominated by just a few companies. One of them, DeltaCorp, owns three of the six existing licenses available for offshore gaming in Goa. Casinos are only allowed as part of 5-star hotels, adding a large and expensive barrier to entry. Overall, there is a substantial interest in gambling, but the country’s massive population remains underserved.
Goa, where the largest gambling establishments are located, is considered India’s gambling entertainment capital. Some of the most popular casinos are Deltin Royale, Casino Pride, Deltin Jaqk (formerly Casino Royale), and Big Daddy casino. Floating casinos are especially popular.
The first land-based gambling complex in India, called "Deltin Daman", was opened on 30 November 2017. It has more than 1,500 gambling venues, 30 gambling tables, and 1,000 slot machines.
Online Gambling in India
As for the online gambling segment, the situation is rather ambiguous. On one hand, most local governments do not license gambling, but on the other, there is no legal framework that prohibits online gambling. Confusion over the legality of online gambling slowed the market's growth at first, but now it seems to be catching on. A 2017 report estimates it to be worth around $125 million.
There are some regulations that could hinder online platforms, however. Online poker platforms, for example, cannot have direct foreign investment or collaboration with foreign entities. This could affect online platforms based in India. Also, the Indian government retains the right to block foreign gambling resources, thereby restricting users from playing video slots or betting on sports.
Sikkim is one of the only Indian provinces where gambling is regulated. In 2015, the Sikkim Online Gaming (Regulation) Amendment Bill was adopted, providing online gambling regulation in Sikkim. The company of Future Gaming Solutions India was the first to get permission to run online gambling activities.
The 2016 Nagaland Online Games of Skill Act provides a procedure for licensing. The license application costs INR 50,000 (USD $725) and the annual fee is INR 1,000,000 (USD $14,517) for one game or, for a variety of games, INR 2,500,000 (USD $36293).
Delta Corp chairman Jaydev Mody estimated the value of the Indian gambling market to be around $75.7 million in August 2015. According to a 2016 report by research and consulting firm Global Market Advisors, the Indian market is drastically underserved. GMA projects that if the Indian market were to be properly accommodated, total gambling revenue could reach around $10.2 billion by 2025, assuming sufficient facilities were furnished by 2021.
According to a 2017 report by trading and investment broker Motilal Oswal, the lottery ticket industry was valued at $12.5 billion and horse racing has an annual turnover of $350 million. Additionally, roughly $1.5 billion worth of bets were placed on a single match of world cup cricket. Clearly, this is a population with a healthy appetite for gambling. However, the very limited casino presence means there is a large gap in the market.
Overall, India’s substantial population of over a billion people, many of whom have a distinct interest in betting and gambling, provides a clear opportunity for operators looking to stay ahead of the game by jumping into India’s nascent online gambling market.
Gambling in the Philippines
The flourishing Philippine gambling market is an excellent example of how proper market organization can provide regular financial revenues to the State Treasury. The market has undergone some changes recently due to President Rodrigo Duterte’s recent policies aimed at eliminating corruption and restructuring some aspects of the market.
There is one organization, the Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corporation, that oversees gambling licensing and regulation at the national level. PAGCOR turns over a substantial portion of its revenue to the office of the president. There are also several special economic zones that can license casinos in their jurisdiction.
Organizations that license casinos in the Philippines:
- The Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corporation (PAGCOR)
- The Cagayan Economic Zone Authority (CEZA)
- The Aurora Pacific Economic Zone and Freeport Authority (APECO)
- The Authority of the Freeport Area of Bataan (FAB)
- Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office (PCSO) (Controls the lottery)
Five of the best entertainment gambling complexes in the Philippines are Solaire Resort and Casino, City of Dreams Manila, Resorts World Manila, Sofitel Philippine Plaza Manila, Wild Aces Poker Sports Club.
The first legal casino in the Philippines, "The Manila Bay”, was opened in 1977.Now, four major operators work in the Philippines: Bloomberry Resorts, Tiger Resorts, Melco (owned by City of Dreams Manila), and Travelers International.
In recent years, increasing numbers of VIP Asian gamblers have foregone Macau in favor of Philippine casinos, bringing noticeable revenues with them as Manila aims to become a major gambling hub in the region.
The online gambling business operates under control of the regulatory authority of PAGCOR, as well as the other aforementioned licensors. PAGCOR’s Philippine Offshore Gaming Operator (POGO) program and CEZA’s First Cagayan licensing body are two popular options for licensing online casinos. CEZA’s First Cagayan has been operating longer, but POGO has recently become a significant rival.
In February 2018, President Duterte signed an executive order targeting illegal online gambling as part of his crusade against corruption. However, the order did not outlaw online gambling; it simply specified that operators based in the Philippines could only offer their services to gamblers outside Philippine territory.
Details for PAGCOR’s POGO license:
|Type of Platform||Application and Processing Fees||License Fee||Performance/Security Bond Fee (One time fee)||Triennial Renewal Fee|
|Sports betting on regulated wagering events||$120,000||$150,000||N/A||$120,000|
CEZA license details:
|E-casino and sports betting||$140,000||$70,000|
|Interactive gaming service support (B2B) only||$40,000||$40,000|
When PAGCOR unveiled its new Philippine Offshore Gaming Operator (POGO) program, the program snatched away nearly half of First Cagayan’s licensees. Apparently, this was at least partially due to CEZA’s insufficient infrastructure. A recent executive order stated that operators’ land-based casinos had to be located in the same jurisdiction where their online platform was licensed.
The Philippine market remains a valuable one. PAGCOR, the Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corporation, reported a Gross Gambling Revenue of $2.9 billion in 2017, and around $3.5 billion in 2018. This substantial growth comes despite some strict new regulations. Some experts predict massive increases in gambling revenue in the near future, due to the licensing of new casinos and the country’s status as a well-positioned seat to face the Asian market.
The Philippines is widely viewed as the best jurisdiction available to set up shop in East Asia. As many governments in the region prohibit gambling, the Philippines has become a popular base for online operators facing various Asian gambling markets.
Given the increases in gambling revenues and the government’s interest in further developing the country’s status as a gambling hub - provided that online platforms face foreign markets - you can expect the Philippines to keep its status as the leading base of operations for platform operators facing the Asian market.
Gambling business in Japan
Gambling is strictly regulated in Japan. Recently, the Japanese government approved the legalization and regulation of three Integrated Resorts, which will be the first 3 casinos in the country. Various Japanese cities are bidding to host the sites.
Some experts have estimated that the Japanese gambling market could be worth as much as $16 billion. This is less than China's Macau, but much more than Las Vegas, which would make Japan the second most valuable gambling market in the world. Other experts put the value even higher, at $20 billion.
The government hopes that the resorts will boost foreign investment and tourism revenue. Due to concerns about problem gambling - an estimated 5 percent of Japanese are affected by problem gambling - casino visitations will be limited. For locals and foreign residents, there will be a $74 entrance fee and a limit of 3 visits per week, with no more than 10 in a given month.
Gambling in Japan Today
Some forms of gambling are already legal: state and instant lottery, pachinko, and betting on cycling, football, motor, auto, boat and horse racing. According to statistics, about 15 million residents visit pachinko parlors every year, spending in excess of $200 billion.
Even though online gambling remains strictly illegal, some offshore operators have found their way into the Japanese market. It’s easily possible to find online casinos that cater to Japanese gamblers with their designs and themes, as well as by accepting deposits in Yen.
Asian Countries Where Gambling is Prohibited
Bangladesh, Indonesia, UAE, Pakistan, Kuwait, Brunei, Bahrain, Qatar are Islamic States where gambling is prohibited at the national level. Bahrain and Qatar censor Internet resources that are related to gambling. Gambling is also illegal in Thailand, Laos, and Myanmar. As can be expected, in all countries where gambling is illegal, underground gambling remains quite popular. Asian gamblers in countries where gambling is prohibited often and easily circumvent legislation by betting on western websites.
The Power of the Chinese Tourist
Gambling is so popular in China that Chinese gamblers can be used as a political bargaining tool. A diplomatic spat with South Korea led the Chinese government to ban Chinese tour operators from bringing large groups to Korea, inflicting some noticeable pain on the Korean tourism and gambling industries.
Meanwhile, in Cambodia, incoming Chinese tourism and investment are prompting growth in the casino industry. In 2017, NagaWorld, the only casino authorized by the Cambodian government, saw an 80% increase in revenue. This is undoubtedly linked to tourism from China, which had already seen a 46% increase in 2016, and was expected to continue.
Favorable relations with the Philippines have led to a massive influx of Chinese gamblers enriching the Manila casino scene. The gambling sector is only one of many that have benefited from President Duterte’s closer relations with China. His visit to China prompted over $1 billion in direct investment from China to the Philippines, most of it directed towards the gambling sector, which enjoys the patronage of many Chinese gamblers.
Forecasts: What to Expect From the Asian Gambling Market in the Future
The Asian market is considered as one of the most promising regions for gambling promotion and development in the world. This is due to the high population and the demand of local residents for gambling. Over the past 30 years, gambling legislation in Asian countries such as Singapore, China, and Japan has changed positively towards partial or complete legalization of the gambling business.
In 2020, Japan will host the Olympic games, which will significantly increase the foreign tourist inflows. This was one of the main reasons for the legalization of gambling on the territory of the state. The local government believes that this step will bring significant financial income to the local budget. According to analysts, the gambling business will be able to replenish the state treasury by USD 25 billion annually.
There could also be some changes in Cambodia in the future, as the country’s casino revenue has seen astronomical increases, perhaps providing an incentive to develop the sector. NagaCorp, Cambodia’s casino operator, reported that its substantial revenue increases were driven by VIPs flocking to its new casino.
In the Philippines, India, and Singapore, the gambling situation is stable. The local governments understands the advantages of legalizing and regulating the gambling business.
Asian gambling establishments are among the most profitable in the world, making the market a tantalizing prospect for foreign operators. Asian countries bring in a substantial portion of the world’s gambling revenue from both land-based and online gambling establishments and platforms; in 2010, the Asian gambling income exceeded US figures.Financial analysts forecast that these trends will remain stable in the near future.
Overall, the Asian market is seeing a trend towards increases in gambling revenue, as well as movements towards increased legalization. Countries with legalized gambling enjoy massive profits, and in countries where gambling is illegal, underground forms of gambling - including, to a very large extent, online casinos registered in foreign countries - enjoy a tremendous amount of popularity. The Asian market offers numerous individual countries where citizens are underserved, and opportunities to face those underserved markets by obtaining a license from PAGCOR or CEZA.