EASTERN PROMISE


First-hand insight into the market for iGaming in the largely unregulated Asian region


THE GROWTH OF online gaming in Asia is primarily driven by ever increasing (and reliable) Internet penetration, coupled with expanding Internet access via the ubiquitous mobile phone. In terms of product adoption, online sportsbetting would be the largest segment, followed by online live stream video casino, RNG casino, keno/numbers games and then poker and other Asian P2P games.

Currently, most Asian countries seem to be some way from creating a regulated framework for online gaming; however, in the long-term I would expect it to follow in the footsteps of Europe with individual countries taxing and regulating the sector.

Hong Kong already offers online horseracing and football betting via the Hong Kong Jockey Club. It’s the only legal form of online gaming there, with everything else strictly prohibited. Indeed, it’s difficult to argue with this approach, as the products generate a huge amount of tax for the Hong Kong government, and the company’s residual profits are invested back into the community. Singapore and Macau also have licensed online sportsbetting.

The take up of poker in Asia has been slower than many industry observers, me included, initially expected. Historically, global online poker has grown due to powerful TV exposure, but this has been limited in Asia as gambling content for television is usually very restricted.

It’s interesting to note that where it was allowed to be shown on TV within Asia, online poker jumped in popularity. The best example is the Philippines, a region where poker is shown regularly on TV, where PAGCOR (the Philippines’ government gaming regulator) has licensed over 20 poker rooms in the country and where there is now a large grass-roots, land-based poker community. Although online poker is yet to be formally licensed in the Philippines, the amount of people playing online at international sites could feasibly persuade PAGCOR to adapt its regime to suit the existing demand.
 
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