Asian gambling market: in-depth review, legislation, special aspects, and prospects in 2021

Mar 7, 2021 Artyom Ustinov
Being the most populated and the largest developing region that combines several expanding world economies (China, Japan, India), Asia is the most hoped-for market for the casino operators around the world. At the same time, Asia can become a real “Pandora’s box”, for each entrepreneur as this market is unique in both economic and cultural ways. Let’s talk about the Asian gambling market twists and turns!

Asian gambling market: what is its status?

Even in 2021, when the online casinos became a common thing, the land-based casinos still rule the Asian market (more than 55%), which is a phenomenon on its own. But it’s not the only trick of the Asian gambling world. See the list below for further details.

Country Is gambling legal? What’s banned? What’s permitted? Gambling revenue Special aspects
Bangladesh No The horserace betting and the national lotteries are legal. All the other types of gambling are banned There are no gambling websites in Bangladesh, but the gamblers may use the foreign online casinos.

Gambling is punishable by up to 3 months in jail or a fine.

China Partly The national lotteries, horserace, and mahjong betting are permitted.

Online gambling and land-based casinos are banned.

All the legal gambling types are monopolized by the government.

More than $50 bln The main trend is the “proxy-gambling” — the online gambling through an intermediary.
Hong Kong Partly Sports and horserace betting (under the jurisdiction of Hong Kong Jockey Club) are legal. National lottery and mahjong betting are permitted. HKD 21.7 bln (the taxes paid by Hong Kong Jockey Club) The “floating casinos” are super popular in Hong Kong. The steamships and the barges sail to the international waters where the gambling is extralegal.
India Partly Only the horserace betting and the national lotteries are legal throughout the country.

Gambling is legal in two states (Sikkim and Goa) and in Daman (the distinct region of Daman and Diu union territory).

About $9 bln The regulatory environment for gambling is complex and tricky so it’s hard to define whether the particular type of gambling is legal or not.

That’s why the local operators for the most part work in the grey area.

At the same time, the foreign gambling websites can be blocked by the government.

The “floating casinos” are very popular in Goa.

The players can bet on the games of skills (including poker).

Indonesia No All the types of gambling are illegal (even the lotteries). Despite the threatening punishment, local gamblers use the foreign online casinos.

There are dozens of illegal gambling haunts around the country (especially in the large cities).

Japan Yes The law aimed to legalize and regulate the gambling industry passed in 2016. As of February 2021, the gambling regulations are still under reform and being adapted so as to allow Japan to welcome the first casinos. These facilities will be in the form of integrated casino resorts, and they will be built in specially designated areas.

The first casinos will appear in Japan no sooner than 2022.

The lotteries (including instant games), sports and race betting are absolutely legal as well.

$9 bln (forecasts) The gambling market leaders continue to conquer Japan.

Las Vegas Sands Corp. is about to build a casino-resort worth $10 bln.

MGM Resorts and Hard Rock Entertainment are also among the main investors (as well as the operators from Macao).

Kazakhstan Yes There are two gambling zones. One is located in the Shuchinskiy district (Akmola region) and the other is in the Kapchagai reservoir coast (Almaty region). The government plans to create the third one soon. About $50 mln The online gambling is basically beyond the law. The gamblers prefer foreign websites.
Lebanon Yes The only Lebanese casino operator is Casino du Liban. The foreign operators are banned. About $9 mln Casino du Liban is currently seeking a foreign partner to provide online gambling services. Most likely online gambling will become legal in the nearest future.
Macao Yes Land-based casinos, poker, and sports betting are legal.

Online gambling is not a subject to Macao’s law.

More than $21 bln The gamblers may play using foreign websites (while in Mainland China it’s forbidden).

⅔ of the gambling market revenue comes from the gambling tourism operators, which bring to Macao the significant amount of VIP-gamblers from Mainland China.

However, there are only 100 000 high-rollers per 30 mln gamblers.

Philippines Yes There are two gambling zones. One of them is controlled by PAGCOR (governmental organization). The other one is a Cagayan Freeport special economic zone. More than $3 bln One of the most profitable markets in Asia.

The licensing jurisdiction here costs $40 000 (the same amount you’ll need to extend it). It’s more expensive than in other countries, but the tax system is way more operator-friendly.

The leading gambling market players (like EveryMatrix) open their business units in Manila and other cities.    

South Korea Partly All the gambling types except the national lotteries, horserace, and sports betting are banned but on paper only.

Online gambling is also banned.

However, the restriction applies to locals only. There are several casinos that work for the tourists (usually the casinos are based in the hotels).  

$17.6 bln Despite the fact the gambling is formally restricted for locals there is one legal land-based casino for the South Koreans.

There are also 16 casinos for the tourists.  

Plus there are many local betting websites (mahjong, sports, table games). It’s not convenient for Koreans to play using the foreign websites as depositing/withdrawal process is complicated.

Taiwan No Only the national lottery is legal. The government doesn’t block local or foreign online casinos, so the gamblers are safe.  
Thailand Partly The horserace betting and the national lotteries are legal.

It’s also legal to play in online casinos that obtain the license granted in foreign country.

4 bln baht for charity Local gamblers usually travel to casinos in Cambodia, Laos, and Myanmar.
UAE No All the types of gambling are illegal. The government is actively working on identifying and banning the gambling websites.   Local gamblers usually travel to the countries and regions where gambling is legal (Macao, Philippines) or extralegal (Thailand).
Vietnam Partly All the types of gambling except the national lotteries are banned, but the restriction applies to locals only.

There are several casinos that work for the tourists (usually the casinos are based in the hotels).  

At the same time, the online gambling is not banned because it’s not a subject to Vietnamese law.

$800 mln – $1.2 bln As of December 1st, 2017 gambling in land-based casinos have become legal for the locals. However, the gamblers must be 21 y.o.or older and should have the monthly income of $440 or higher. Plus the family members must be cool with the gambler visiting the casino.

The casinos will appear in two gambling zones (Van Don and Phu Quoc). Currently, those casino resorts are under development.  

In conclusion

In spite of the fact that gambling is illegal in many Asian countries (Bahrain, Qatar, Brunei, and Singapore) this region has many investment-attractive regions. TOP-3 will include Japan, Kazakhstan, and the Philippines. Gambling is legal here and the investment environment is either 100% business-friendly or (in the case of Japan) is super profitable.

The poor but promising countries like Cambodia, Vietnam, and Myanmar are also prospective markets for every operator planning to conquer Asian gambling industry.

It’s hard to become an Asian gambling market resident due to not only economical but cultural aspects. But if you’re not afraid to risk and have the seed capital to spend you should try anyway. Asia is a perfect gambling investment.

asia gambling

Artyom Ustinov

Artyom is Head of White Label & Turnkey Solutions and has been working in complex B2B/B2C sales, as well as business development and management consulting in iGaming for more than 10 years.

Together with the Key Account Management Team, he has helped over 100 start-ups and experienced gaming companies to launch their projects with SoftGamings.

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