Thailand inches towards legalization while authorities in Kenya continue their war on betting.
Thailand breaking the mold
Gambling is tightly controlled in Asia when compared to Western markets.
In countries where gambling is allowed, it’s common for casinos to only accept certain players; Malaysia’s Muslim population is forbidden to gamble, South Koreans are only allowed at one of the country’s casinos, and only foreigners can visit casinos in Vietnam and Cambodia.
Gambling is banned in Thailand, aside from government-monopoly horse race betting and lotteries.
However, reportedly, a whopping 57% of Thais gamble. As always, the lack of legitimate casinos to visit leads to a thriving black market, including both underground gambling houses and offshore gambling platforms.
But Thai authorities are seemingly tired to watching tax revenues slip through their fingers are citizens play online or venture to neighboring countries to visit their casinos.
A committee within the Thai National Assembly has submitted the findings of a study into the potential impact of legalizing gambling in the country in the form of integrated resorts. The committee hopes to provide for the creation of multiple casino resorts in different regions of the country, including the greater Bangkok area. Taxes would be set at 30%.
Online gambling would also be permitted under the committee’s proposal.
Some of the potential locations for the casino resorts are close to borders with Cambodia, Myanmar, and Laos, which might indicate that Thai authorities are both sick of seeing their citizens travel abroad to gamble and hoping to bring in some traffic from their neighbors.
It does beg the question: wouldn’t this all be simpler if all the countries involved regulated gambling for their own citizens?
Communication breakdown in Kenya
Sports betting is booming in Africa.
Boosted by a blazing passion for sports and increasing access to betting products (largely driven by mobile tech), citizens of countries like Kenya, Nigeria, Tanzania, and Uganda are placing bets left, right, and center. These low-value, high-volume bettors have opened up a new frontier in online sports betting.
But there’s often turbulence when a market takes off too quickly.
The summer of 2019 saw the beginning of a drawn-out tug-of-war between sportsbooks and authorities in Kenya over taxes that ultimately saw major brands like Sportpesa and Betin pull out of the market entirely.
Authorities have recently taken another drastic step in their struggle with operators.
Communications Authority of Kenya has ordered mobile carriers to stop serving gambling operators who haven’t had their license renewed. This measure hits twice as hard in Kenya. Not only do most players place bets on mobile, they make withdrawals and deposits via mobile as well; financial account ownership rates are low, while it’s incredibly common to use a service such as M-pesa to make payments through a mobile provider.
Of course, if the government demands operators hold a license, they should apply for one as quickly as possible. But President Kenyatta has already demonstrated his antipathy towards sportsbooks and casinos with the extended struggle over tax rates. Increasingly restrictive measures might ground the fledgling market and let the black market fourish.