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Asian Gambling Markets & eSports

October 12 Sandra Wong

Gambling and Asians are quite synonymous.  No surprise that Macau outpaces Vegas in gambling revenues by a wide margin.  In 2013 Macau revenues were at $45.2 billion while Las Vegas was only at a paltry $6.2 billion in 2012.  It’s no wonder many pro poker players migrated to Macau especially after Black Friday to look for greener pastures.

However, nothing lasts forever.  Even Macau wasn’t immune to growing pains.  Gaming revenue declined for 19 straight months and 2015’s overall total of $28.93 billion marked the first time since 2010 the casino industry failed to crack the $30 billion figure.  At one point Macau was positioned to crack $100 billion by 2020.

To understand why gambling, eSports, and competition is prevalent in Asia one has to look deeper into the history and culture.  

The strong belief in luck, fate, or fortune is part of the driving force behind Asians, gambling and competitive gaming. It’s no coincidence there is such a high proportion of Asians gambling and the deep cultural factors which not only encourage gambling but discourage seeking help when it becomes compulsive or addictive.

Research shows Asians in the U.S. have a disproportionate number of pathological gamblers (i.e. addicted) as compared to the general American population. According to Dr. Timothy Fong, an associate Clinical Professor of Psychiatry at the Semel Institute for Neuroscience and Human Behavior at UCLA and co-director of the UCLA Gambling Studies Program, the rate of gambling addiction ranges from 6 percent to nearly 60 percent, depending on the specific Asian ethnicity (Southeast Asian refugees scoring highest) as opposed to the national rate of 1-2 percent.


There are a number of cultural factors that influence gambling among Asians here in the U.S. When we trace the roots back to Asia, you can see Asian cultures view gambling much more as a social activity than mainstream American society.

Gambling like mah-jong are considered a social activity.  The same can be said of playing poker and eSports.

As poker begins to gain traction in Asia, leagues are beginning to form.  Once leagues begin to propagate that’s usually an indication the market is emerging.

Having leagues is indicative of a healthy burgeoning market place.  One of the objectives of forming leagues is to attract regional players.  In the case of Asian Poker League which was created by APL founder Judic Kim and CEO of Beijing Poker Club Zhang Yangchun August of this year!  They outlined “bringing fun back into poker” entailing extracurricular activities such as clubbing, shopping, and touring the city as part of the APL experience.

The second objective is to entice international players into China for repeat business.  Although poker is materializing in China, most players are unaware and thus Beijing isn’t quite yet on the radar to the public.  With successful events this could impact the publics view and perception.  As a domino effect regional players will also improve faster as they vie against a higher level of competition.

Along with poker, eSports (also known as electronic sports, esports, e-sports, competitive (video) gaming, professional (video) gaming, or pro gaming) is gaining major steam in Asia.  Blizzard with WarCraft and StarCraft paved the way in the late 90’s culminating present day with League Of Legends and Dota.

eSports (also known as electronic sports, esports, e-sports, competitive (video) gaming, professional (video) gaming, or pro gaming) is a type of competition that is facilitated by electronic systems, particularly video games.  It’s guided by the input of players and teams as well as the output of the eSports system which are arbitrated by human-computer components.  Most commonly, eSports take the form of organized, multiplayer video game competitions, particularly between professional players. The most common video game genres associated with eSports are real-time strategy, fighting, first-person shooter (FPS), and multiplayer online battle arena (MOBA). Tournaments such as The International, the League of Legends World Championship, the World Championship Series, the Evolution Championship Series, the Intel Extreme Masters, and the Smite World Championship provide both live broadcasts of the competition, and prize money and salaries to competitors.

Gambling, poker, and eSports all have one singular correlation.  It’s all about the competition to see who’s the best in their respective field. The Darwinism concept comes in many forms.

“I have been up against tough competition all my life. I wouldn’t know how to get along without it.” – Walt Disney



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