Gambling is enjoyed by many people in the world; at least 85% of Americans have gambled once in their lives and in the UK, an estimated 33.6 million people have gambled this year alone. This is no different for any other parts of the world like Asia, where the inhabitants, who currently account for 60% of the world’s population, invented a game of chance using tiles 5300 years ago. It is not surprising then, that the continent has the largest gambling market in the world. The world’s top 10 casinos in 2014 are found in Asia and the top 8 in Macau, with Galaxy Macau earning $5.85 billion, followed by SJM Grand Lisboa at $3.82 billion and City of Dreams earning $3.72 billion. The final 2 spots on the top 10 are from Singapore: Marina Bay Sands which earned $2.57 billion and Resorts World Sentosa making $1.76 billion. Not only does the Asia-Pacific region have one of the most successful gambling industry in the world, it is still developing. Many countries in Asia don’t allow gambling such as Japan and Thailand. Gambling in China has been illegal under the Chinese law since the communist party came to power in 1949, and it has been illegal in Japan since 1907.
A shake up in the Asian market – will Japan become a powerhouse?
Gambling as a whole is not allowed in Japan, however some forms are legal. Citizens can participate in scratch cards, betting on some sports as well as playing the lottery. The most common gambling related activity is pachinko. It is traditionally a recreational arcade game but is used most frequently as a gambling device which is comparable to the Western slot machines. Online gambling is illegal and is heavily restricted and controlled, although the government is unable to prevent people from accessing foreign gambling sites. Players often access these online casinos through their smartphones, there is now a large range of options for Japanese players to choose from.
This is all slowly changing since there are plans underway for three integrated resorts to be built in three different cities in Japan. The likely candidates so far for the site of these integrated casinos are Wakayama Prefecture, Nagasaki Prefecture, the city of Osaka and Osaka Prefecture and Yokohama, as they have all declared their intentions to bid. Unfortunately, due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic and other factors, this has been delayed until July 2021. Looking at the numbers it might be a safe bet to say that Japan has an untapped gambling market.
An estimated 9 million people play pachinko in Japan each year, with over 9.4 thousand pachinko parlors housing a total of 2.73 million pachinko machines. Last year, the total amount of players spent $200 billion playing this western slot-like game. The legal gambling industry in Japan is already making $113.6 billion compared to the casinos in Macau which generated $36.7 billion.
Macau – The Grand Daddy Of Asian Gambling
Although Macau is located in China, it is a Special Administrative Region which means it has its own government and laws. Two of the top 3 casinos in the world are in Macau; Venetian Macau and City of Dreams. In terms of earnings from individual official casinos, Macau dominates the world-wide industry. In the list of top 10 casinos in the world, 8 of the casinos are in Macau with the number 1 casino, Galaxy Macau, earning $5.85 billion in 2014, and the MGM Grand Hotel and Casino in America grossing $1.13 billion in 2018. In terms of collective casinos, it is placed second in the world compared to America, making $37.6 billion and America accumulating $43.61 billion. This is very impressive considering there only 38 casinos in Macau competing against the 465 commercial casinos America has stretching across 9,833,517 square km, while Macau isn’t even a country at 28 square km.
Singapore – Trailing behind
Two of the casinos in Singapore as mentioned, were in the top 10 casinos in the world. This is impressive as they are not far behind the Sands Cotai in Macau which earned $2.8 billion, and still grossed more than the Wynn Las Vegas in America, the highest earning casino last year. This is quite impressive for Singapore as there are only 2 casinos in the country. Residents have to pay a $150 daily levy to enter the casino. If this hefty fee was removed for locals, then the casinos would see more attendance as they would be more accessible, meaning the casinos would potentially make more money. This shows that there is an untapped market in the country, and the profits could be in the same range as casinos in Macau if there were more of them. Gambling other than in casinos or as a recreational activity is illegal in Singapore, this could be another reason why they are slightly trailing behind.