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Gambling Laws in Asia – A Beginner’s Guide

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Gambling is more than just a popular pastime across Asia, a notion supported by the rapid growth of the industry throughout the Asia-Pacific region. Several forms of gambling operate almost exclusively within Asia, making them a tourist attraction all of their own, but just as the popular vote varies across the continent, so do the laws governing the actions of gamblers and operators. While these laws can become quite complex and specific, it’s important to be across the differences before you go across the borders.

India 

Despite considerable interest in gambling across the nation, parts of India uphold strict laws against it which date back to the 19th century, while others enforce only ambiguous generalities. Some of the nation’s most potent gambling legislation bans public casinos and most other forms of gambling, with the exception of horseracing. As the exceptions to this ruling, the states of Goa and Sikkim allow the operation of land-based casinos, but the main outlet for citizens of India can be found online. There is no law against online gambling in the nation, and some states, like Sikkim, have supported the practice for many years.

Japan

Despite the long-term imposition of strict rules around gambling practices, Japan is a nation of closet enthusiasts who are deeply invested in what has become a sixteen-billion-dollar market. Laws have relaxed in recent years, allowing casinos that had previously been outlawed to conduct business, although tough regulations remain in place. Citizens and residents of Japan have a range of gambling options at their disposal, from sporting events like horse racing, cycling and boating to slot machines called Pachinko, an industry which sidesteps gambling restrictions by replacing cash rewards with exchangeable tokens.

China

In almost every province of China, the government maintains an ardent stance against gambling, ruling all forms of gambling illegal with the exception of government-run lotteries; however, the foundations of other forms have been well established in special administrative regions, such as Hong Kong and Macau, with major casino resorts. Known as the Asian Las Vegas, Macau is at the helm of a long-term surge in Asian gambling, bringing in billions of dollars in revenue each quarter and attracting tourists from other Chinese cities and numerous global destinations.

Thailand

This nation is home to some of the strictest regulations across the continent which see all forms of gambling banned, but this doesn’t necessarily stop gambling enthusiasts. Many residents sidestep the restrictions by participating in online gambling activities, or engaging with unauthorized agents, methods which typically evade the monitoring efforts of gaming authorities.

Malaysia

Convoluted gambling laws have created confusion over what is and what isn’t legal with respect to gambling in Malaysia. Hence, as the laws do not outlaw the use of online gambling, residents can make use of these websites without penalty. This explains the bountiful online gambling landscape available to residents of Malaysia, while several of the nation’s casinos continue to focus on serving international visitors.

Philippines

Gambling laws in the Philippines are some of the most confusing in the area, with two separate gaming authorities setting different precedents and a recent set of policies introduced to stave off corruption. Although PAGCOR is in charge of casinos and bookmakers across the majority of the land, the Cagayan region has its own rules which consider independent casinos legal additions to the economic landscape. Amidst the confusion, one ruling is consistent: online gambling with overseas providers faces no restrictions, whereas local providers are not to be used.

Vietnam

For many years, Vietnamese casinos were inaccessible for locals, preferring to cater only to foreigners, although this ruling is being reconsidered. The change reflects the desire to leverage the revenue generation capacity of gambling institutions and compete with neighboring countries for economic benefits. Anti-gambling laws are still in place and the stakes can be significant, but by allowing locals to frequent casinos, operators in Vietnam intend to invite an influx of investments from world operators.

The moral of the story is that gambling laws can be complex and vary widely across borders, even within close proximity, and research is the only way to ensure understanding and compliance. Many of these laws order tough consequences for disobedience, so unless you want to lose more than a few handfuls of the local currency, get across the legal trends before you dip your toes. As long as you know your stuff, a great experience in Asia is a safe bet.

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