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Asian Gambling and APAC Gaming Markets

August 9 Sandra Wong

When it comes to gambling, there are 2 sides in which Asian families generally stand. One side holds the stance that gambling is bad, the other side fully embracing it as part of the Chinese culture. My parents were the latter, and how my parents met was because of a good old game of cards. My father and uncle (mom’s older brother) were old school poker players, and they met in a gambling hall, and that is how my dad met my mom…and as fate would have it, they got married and well, then they had a baby and their first born was me.

My earliest and fondest memories with my father and uncle were them taking me to smokey backroom majong & underground poker rooms and horse racing tracks as a child. (This was called good parenting in the 80’s when you don’t leave your child home by themselves). 

So with this said, I thought I’d share a few interesting facts about the various Asian Gambling Markets.

asian apac gambling markets

China (1.4BN population)

“Currently, China’s Tencent will have an estimated 13 percent of the global $99 billion game business in 2016 with lots of room for major growth in the future of the industry. ”

  • 2016 Gaming revenues: $24.4Bn in China, USA $23.6Bn, Global 99.6Bn
  • 740M Active Internet Users, 446.3M Gamers
  • 157M spend money on games (payer-to-player ratio of 35%, which is below the 40% average of Asia Pacific)
  • Since 2012, the Chinese mobile market has grown by over $2BN annually.
  • Expected ARPU mobile apps $0.55.

Hong Kong (7.5 Million population)

“I think HK is a good market for soft launch of apps or games that want to go international. It is a small market in terms of population and therefore it gives you quick feedback. Smartphone and mobile internet penetration is also very high. Most people are also bilingual so you can get away with just having the English version for certain apps and games, and can then decide to localize it fully after you get satisfactory metrics.”


  • Horse racing has most spectators. Football, Basketball, Swimming, Badminton, Table tennis, Cycling and running Cricket, Dragon boat racing, Rugby union. V East Asian Games and it was the biggest sporting event ever held in the territory.
  • 80% of the adult population here is said to have engaged in gambling



  • Most of the gambling in Hong Kong is said to occur online, although there are a lot of land based options as well, both legal and otherwise.
  • Mahjong is allowed to operate for RMG & 60+ mahjong clubs in operation in Hong Kong and they are licensed and regulated.
  • Unlucky Numbers in Hong Kong include 1, 4 and 7.
  • Expected ARPU for HK social casino $1.09 on desktop. Double that for mobile iOS $2.15.


(5.4M population)

  • Singapore has blocked hundreds of offshore gambling sites and it has become a criminal offense to gamble online on an unauthorized site.
  • The traditionally uptight Asian city-state was in the news in 2011 to eclipse Las Vegas 2012 as the world’s second largest gaming destination after lifting a decades-old ban on gambling and opening two new casinos last year. At the same time, the government has enacted regulations that make it difficult for Singaporeans to gamble. The sounds like a battle for Asia’s tourism industry to allow gambling in Singapore.

Macau (649,100 population)

  • 1 in 5 locals work in a casino (20% ofpopulation)
  • Gaming mecca of APAC has 40 casinos, 8119 casino table games, 92 poker tables and 26,087 slot machines.
  • Two-thirds Macau gambling revenues come from junket operators that bring VIP clients, mainly from China.

Taiwan (23.5M population)

  • Gambling in Taiwan is regulated by strict laws
  • You can bet on the Taiwan Sports Lottery, the only source for legally betting sports but odds aren’t on par with their online offerings so bettors prefer online gambling websites that offer Mahjong, baccarat, slots, Chinese chess, sports, casino and in-play gaming, and much better odds.

Philippines (98.4 million population)


  • Two distinct regions for gambling purposes:


    • 1. State-owned Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corporation (PAGCOR), which operates all land-based and online casinos, bingo, sports betting, and betting establishments and is the sole authorized gambling operator in the country. Online casinos with the PAGCOR stamp are considered to be safe for players since that means that the casino has been verified and it operates within the law.
    • 2. Cagayan Freeport, which is the only region in the Philippines that is not under PAGCOR monopoly

For companies looking to set up a gambling company in Asia, the Philippines is a very valuable gaming license to hold.

  • According to Asia Gaming Brief, the Philippines is expected to be the fastest growing gaming jurisdiction in Asia, with the total size of the market predicted to reach $2.7 billion in 2015, from $2.05 billion registered in 2014.

Japan (127M population)

    • Online gambling not allowed, strongly restricted & controlled but despite tight restrictions, sports betting and gambling are very popular. The government does not seem prevent people from accessing foreign gambling sites.
    • Legally permitted gambling activities are lottery, scratch cards, pari-mutuel betting horse racing, bicycle and motorcycle racing, powerboat racing, and soccer toto wagers.
    • There are no legal casinos in Japan but many pachinko parlours. Pachinko parlours are similar to arcade games found elsewhere in the world that are popular with adolescents playing games to win tickets and then redeeming them for prizes. Pachinko gambling is a big money business.



Vietnam (89.7M population)

  • Despite all forms of offline & online gambling, except state lottery, being illegal,  international and local betting websites are easy to access and local authorities do not try to block them. Many online casinos including Bodog gaming sites accept Vietnamese currency and have localized UI.
  • Gambling is widespread in Vietnam, despite being banned, and millions of dollars often change hands during football matches. In the mid 2000s, Vietnam’s soccer betting market alone was estimated to be worth about $1 billion a year.
  • In March 2012, the Wall Street Journal reported: Vietnam is emerging as the latest Asian nation to loosen a straight-laced attitude to gambling, with the Finance Ministry saying it plans to legalize sports betting. The move, partly inspired by Singapore’s success in reinventing itself as a casino hub in recent years, followed discussions about easing restrictions on gambling in other major markets, such as Japan, and underscored the speed with which the gambling world’s center of gravity has shifted toward Asia.

South Korea (50M population)

  • Gambling activities are illegal and it is a crime for Koreans to gamble outside the borders although some state controlled gambling activities are allowed, like horse racing, lottery and betting on some sports.
  • Many online casinos/gaming sites internationally support easy payment options and have localized UI and language support.
  • South Korea has 16 casinos where only tourist can enter. The only casino that allows South Koreans to gamble is Kangwon Land Resort & Casino, located in the northern part of the country.
  • Expected ARPU mobile iOS $2.36, Google $1.43 with RPGs having the strongest market share

(67M population)

  • Gambling is regulated by multiple laws and though most of it is illegal Thailand offers 2 forms of legal gambling: horse races in Bangkok (which is usually addressed to high society) and the national lottery, which is a big deal all over the country and most people in the country can access.
  • Citizens of Thailand are able to play online and then visit personally the casinos from the neighboring countries to collect their money.

Malaysia (29.7M population)

  • 60% Muslim population under Sharia law that forbids gambling. Some legal forms of gambling exists though such as Online gambling.
  • Main gambling websites used by locals are licensed in Philippines and offer poker, casino games, sports, etc. and in Europe, which provide global coverage and a vast array of sports and casino games, like online slots, baccarat, blackjack, roulette or live casino and poker.
  • Other heavy Muslim Islamic law countries (Brunei, Bangladesh, Pakistan, Bahrain, Middle East) also similar to Malaysia. 

India (1.25BN population)

  • Rapid growth in their gambling markets and is currently in top 5 fastest 2016 because of it’s rise in economic middle class and growing adoption of internet access
  • Cricket is the most bet on sport in India and most punters choose regional websites that provide easy payment options.

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