Asia is a standout amongst all continents and regions. For one, it is the largest in terms of both population and land area. Second, Asia amasses a lot of visitors year in, year out and has been so for centuries. With such diversity in culture, spirituality, adventure, and intrigue, visitors are easily fixated and cannot help but pay a visit to any of the many Asian territories.
The terrain is miraculously vast, the delicacies are simply unique, and technology is currently being homed in Asia. Countries like China, India, and South Korea contribute to (and control) the technology industry than most other countries. The continent’s fascinations are innumerable but when it comes to gambling, Asia is readily disunited and almost disillusioned. If anything, gambling in Asia is limited to certain regions…but in those regions, gambling is king-sized.
Although Europe contributed to gambling more than any other continent, gambling is more historical in Asia than anywhere else. In fact, the very first recorded appearance of gambling was in 3000 BC when Mesopotamian inhabitants placed wagers on a game of six-sided dice. Today, this West Asian region is mostly divided between Iraq and Kuwait.
Also, the Ancient Chinese placed wagers on unearthed tiles as far back as 2300 BC. According to 詩歌 (the Classic of Poetry, Book of Odes, or the Book of Songs), the tiles game was described with similarities to a typical lottery game, due to a mention of “the drawing of wood”.
Around the same time, Emperor Yao, one of the Three Sovereigns and Five Emperors of China, invented a game in which participants placed wagers on the outcome of two opponents. The game, although its name is lost, had hundreds of pieces.
Indians, in 1500 BC, made gambling their favorite entertainment activity. Many would wager herds of cattle on dice games. Some also placed more valuable wagers on chariot racing.
In the year 200 BC, Keno became widespread throughout the regions of China and there were tons of tickets sold to fund state projects. Interestingly, the funds for the construction of the Great Wall of China was reportedly raised with the help of many lottery games. The lotteries were being sanctioned by the Chinese authorities on a larger scale in the 15th century.
Furthermore, placing wagers on card games came into existence either in the 9th or early-12th century in the locales of China. Historians believe the rules of the game were completely different from today’s and the card was different from the standard 52 card decks. The latter century is backed by a reference in the Ching-tsze-tung (Chinese dictionary) of 1628.
Other lottery games, as well as dominoes (similar to the Pai Gow Poker), were established in the 10th century. Yet, China and India are not the only Asian countries with a commanding say in the history of gambling. For one, poker was created by the Persians as As-Nas in the 17th century. Well, the origination of poker is quite tricky. While some historians believe the Persians did create poker, some say Poque (a local French game) inspired the game.
Second, the fifth Umayyad caliph, Abd al-Malik ibn Marwan, set up a gambling activity in the sixth century in which his officers would toss a coin. As a result of the toss, a particular officer would either have a share of Syria’s wealth or not.
Summarily, the creation of gambling is more evident in Asia than Europe. From 3000 BC to the 17th century, Asia was the leader of all gambling activities. As soon as lotteries became popular in Europe, the advancement of gambling shifted to the region.
And this continued until Macau reclaimed the significance of Asia in the gambling industry in the early-2000s following the many licenses are given out to a number of foreign investors by the Chinese authorities in a semi-futile attempt to end (or at least limit) the monopoly of Stanley Ho since 1962.
However, gambling has been legal in Macau since it was a colony of Portugal, precisely the 1850s. Today, gambling is larger in Macau than any other place in the world, even the prestigious Las Vegas. In fact, casinos in Macau generate close to triple of those in Las Vegas though more people visit the latter destination.
In 2016, Macau generated close to $30 million while Las Vegas generated more than $11 million. The former welcomed 30 million people while more than 42 million visited the latter. Las Vegas also has more than double the number of casinos Macau has. Nonetheless, the single reason the gross gaming revenue of casinos in Macau is so high is its table minimum which is close to $40.
Aside from history and market dominance, the gambling climate of Asia is also impressive. For one, 59.3 million international visitors arrived at Chinese airports in 2016. In 2015, the figure was 56.9 million, which means an increase in the number of visitors from 2015 to 2016. In addition to China, tens of millions of people visit Malaysia, Thailand, Macau SAR, Singapore, India, Japan, South Korea, Indonesia, Saudi Arabia, Hong Kong SAR, and United Arab Emirates annually.
Despite the fact that most visitors are attracted to the enchanting history, natural diversities, surreal terrains, and unconventional victuals, gambling is evidently conspicuous in Asia as well. The countries are flawlessly different from one another so diversity is ascertained.
Regarding the laws governing gambling in Asia, most countries put an illegal status on gambling. Under the respective laws, gambling is illegal in China, India, North Korea, and Kuwait. In China, casinos are allowed in some regions and citizens can participate in lotteries run by the State government. In India, gambling within a state is licit or illicit based on the decision of the state; Goa, Sikkim, and Daman permit the operation of casinos while lotteries and horse racing are legal throughout the whole country. In North Korea, citizens cannot participate in gambling activities but foreigners can. In Kuwait, gambling is completely illegal mainly because of the Islamic religion.
In contrast, gambling is legal in some regions including Singapore, both SARs (Hong Kong and Macau), Philippines, and Japan. In Vietnam, citizens must meet the minimum prerequisites in specific casinos. Ultimately, gambling in Asia varies from country to country, unlike Central America where gambling is similarly legal in all countries. The country also determines the gambling climate as the thrill acquirable in Macau or Singapore is relatively different from what the greater percentage of other countries have to offer.
Most Asian casinos are inside a hotel or resort so the gambling atmosphere is as expected: luxe, relaxing, and friendly. Still, most Asian countries are not gambling destinations either because gambling is completely illegal or the casinos present are not up to par.
There are 52 territories (countries and special administrative regions) in Asia. Ironically, an exact half of these countries offer at least one casino while there are no casinos in the other half. The countries without at least one casino are more than expected. This is mainly because most Asian countries are Islamic states where gambling is completely illegal because of some references to gambling in the Qur’an.
The 26 countries with at least one casino are Armenia, Cambodia, China, Cyprus, Georgia, Hong Kong SAR, India, Japan, Kazakhstan, Laos, Lebanon, Macau SAR, Malaysia, Myanmar (Burma), Nepal, Philippines, Russia, Singapore, South Korea, Sri Lanka, Thailand, Turkey, Turkmenistan, United Arab Emirates (UAE), Uzbekistan, and Vietnam.
Based on revenues, Macau SAR is the unchallengeable leader followed by Singapore. In Macau, all casinos are located on the Macau Peninsula, on the Taipa Island, and in Cotai. Further, the largest casino in Cotai, Macau SAR, and Asia is The Venetian Macao. The hotel and casino resort feature more than 3,000 gaming machines and 800 table games in its 546,000 square feet gaming space.
Other notable casinos in Macau are City of Dreams with more than 750 gaming machines and 500 table games in its 420,000 square feet gaming space, MGM Macau Grand Casino with almost 1,000 gaming machines and more than 400 table games, Sands Macau with more than 750 gaming machines and 1000 table games, and Ponte 16 Resort with more than 300 gaming machines and 150 table games. And in addition to equipment, casinos in Macau are generally large in gaming space. In fact, six out of the 10 biggest casinos in the world are in Macau.
Other large, non-Macau Asian casinos are below.
– Resorts World Genting with over 3,000 gaming machines and 400 table games (in Genting Highlands, Malaysia)
– Deltin Daman Casino with about 1,000 gaming machines and 30 table games (in Daman, India)
– Selena World Resort & Casino with more than 2,500 gaming machines and 500 table games (in Vladivostok, Russia)
– Star Vegas International Resort & Casino with over 1,200 gaming machines and 100 table games (in Paôy Pêt, Cambodia)
– Okada Manila with over 3,000 gaming machines and 500 table games (in Parañaque, Philippines)
– Marina Bay Sands Casino with over 2,500 gaming machines and 700 table games (in Marina Bay, Singapore)
– City of Dreams Mediterranean with over 1,200 gaming machines (in Limassol, Cyprus)
– Inspire Integrated Resort with more than 1,500 gaming machines and 250 table games (in Incheon, South Korea).
Despite the fact that there is an impressive number of casinos in Asia, other forms of gambling are not impressive except lotteries. But first, what casino games are common in Asia? They are Blackjack, Texas Hold’em Poker, Sic Bo, Roulette, Boule, Slot Machines, Caribbean Stud Poker, Craps, Casino War, Three-Card Poker, Fan Tan, Keno, Fortune Baccarat, Fortune 3 Card Poker, Celestial Dragon, and most especially, Baccarat and Three-Card Baccarat.
Bingo isn’t very popular in Asia but this depends on the regions. Poker, on the other hand, is quite popular even though it is just 11 years old in Macau. Further, sports betting is considerably popular. The main sports Asians place wagers on are, horse racing and greyhound racing. Other sports are not widespread, though a number of bookmakers are operational across Asia.
As expected, the lottery is omnipresent throughout the continent. Similar to other continents, Asian lotteries are individually run and operated by the national government or a regional government within the particular country or region. For instance, Singapore Pools is the state monopoly which runs lottery games like Toto and 4D in Singapore.
Just like every other continent, online gambling and Bitcoin gambling depends on the laws of each country. In a country like the United Arab Emirates, online gambling is completely illegal, i.e. gambling on a local or offshore gambling website is highly prohibited and punishable under the law. In India, both online and Bitcoin gambling are illegal but gambling on offshore websites is allowed.
– In most countries in Asia, the minimum gambling age is 18 years. However, in some countries like Macau, the minimum gambling age is 18 years for foreigners but 21 years for residents.
– Accordingly, SJM Holdings Limited, Galaxy Entertainment Group (GEG), and American company Las Vegas Sands Corporation are the three largest casino licensees in Macau SAR.