Every year, millions of people from around the world travel to parts of Asia. Whether it’s for business, a backpacking trip or a honeymoon, countries in the Eastern part of the world make for popular destinations. The World Tourism Organization predicts that by 2020, China will become the largest travel destination — with an estimated 137.10 million international travellers to the country that year, taking up 8.6% of the global share.
China, of course, isn’t the only place tourists visit; in 2018, Japan attracted 31 million visitors, while the neighbouring island of Taiwan drew in 10 million. Whether it’s for business or travel, visitors to countries across Asia visit bars and restaurants, local shops and other tourist and historical destinations, in both cities and the countryside.
If you’re a fan of gambling and casinos, it’s important to know the varying laws and options when you’re travelling to Asia. Of course, these vary from country to country. With the right knowledge, you can ensure you’re not missing out on opportunities that are available during your travels; plan it right, and not only will you be able to lawfully gamble, but you’ll be doing so in some of the best casinos in the world.
Laws in place across Asia
The sheer size of Asia — the earth’s largest and most populated continent — means that the cultural, political, historical and legal differences of its many countries vary greatly. Rules around — and even the existence of — both physical and online casinos, and gambling more generally, are diverse. In Taiwan, gambling is regulated by strict laws; the only source for legally betting in the country is the Taiwan Sports Lottery. Hong Kong has only slightly looser regulations — certain forms of gambling, overseen by the government-managed Hong Kong Jockey Club are permitted. This includes horse racing, football matches and the lottery.
A comparable organisation, called the Chinese Sports Lottery, exists in China; it has a monopoly on all sports betting. And while legal betting — including sports, lottery and slots — exists across the country, be careful to avoid non-authorised betting activities.
For visitors to Japan, expect gambling activities to be very controlled. Exceptions to the strict laws are limited, and include scratch cards, lottery, horse racing as well as bicycle, motorcycle and powerboat racing.
Laws in South Asia can be even more rigorous. The only fully legal gambling activities in India are horse racing and lottery. Other countries, including Bangladesh, Pakistan and Qatar have all outlawed gambling under Islamic law.
Try out Pachinko in Japan
The variance in laws and restrictions across Asia means that punters, including tourists, have the opportunity to try out new and popular games. The tight regulations of gambling in Japan have given rise to alternatives, including Pachinko — vertical pinball-like slot machines that are so popular that Japanese gamblers have spent $200 billion on them each year. While the parlours exist in a “legal grey space”, it’s estimated that almost 10,600 exist around the country. Each year, 1.5 brand new pachinko machines are sold to parlours— and one out of 11 Japanese people play it once a week.
Even if you’re not a regular gambler, if you are travelling Japan — and want to live like a local — it’s definitely worth giving it a try.
The Las Vegas of Asia: Macau
For casino and gambling lovers, a visit to Asia is not complete without a trip to Macau. Now the world’s casino capital, in 2010 revenue from gambling receipts exceeded the entire state of Nevada. As a special administrative region, it is the only part of greater China (including China, Hong Kong and Macau itself) where gambling is not only widely legal, but heavily promoted.
A former colony of the Portuguese empire, Macau returned to Chinese rule in 1999 and as such has different laws than the mainland. While gambling in the country formerly focused on high rollers playing in private rooms, the influx of foreign-licensed gambling firms and ventures has diversified the industry.
American-owned casinos like The Wynn and The Venetian have expanded the focus, from high-spending customers in VIP rooms to a more relaxed gambling setting with entertainment. Rather than a serious environment, visitors can learn how to play poker, and a whole host of other casino games, while enjoying themselves and taking things at their own speed. It’s been a national success story; in 2014, gaming tax revenue provided approximately 84% of the government’s total revenue, largely from tourists looking for a relaxed setting.
Since the influx of American-owned casinos to the country, the dress code has become less strict. While the VIP rooms still host suited up high rollers, you can be sure to be find more relaxed environments at almost all the major casinos. For tourists, the legal gambling age is 18 — residents of Macau need to wait until they are 21.
Gambling hot spots are divided between the downtown — where you can find the Grand Lisboa, the Wynn and the Sands — as well as the Cotai Strip. Macau’s answer to Las Vegas, the Cotai Strip is accessible by bus and the home to star-studded casinos like The Venetian, The Plaza, The Parisian and Studio City. Almost all the casinos offer accommodation. For the most luxurious — and Instagram-friendly stay — book an evening at the Morpheus; a stunning hotel just off the Cotai Strip designed by renowned architect Zaha Hadid.