At a Glance: The Asia-Pacific Region

25 September 2007

With the passing of the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act (UIGEA) in 2006 and the long-running regulatory battles across Europe, the interactive gambling industry knows only too well the influence that politicians can have on its business. As attention turns to Asia as an emerging gambling market, does the region’s political landscape hold any hope for the industry?

Gambling generally suffers from the fact that it is a comparatively unimportant issue for politicians, regardless of where you are in the world. Certainly, at times, gambling shuffles a few places up the political agenda but is soon put back in its place when something more pressing arises.

In Japan, for example, Shinzo Abe’s resignation as leader of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party seems certain to delay any casino regulation and the more distant prospect of online legislation.

Abe’s successor, Yasuo Fukada, however, has vowed to continue the program of economic and social reform set out by Abe. This could be good news for the gambling industry because such reforms require financing. The proposal to increase consumption tax in Japan is not popular and, in these circumstances, a regulated gambling industry could offer attractive revenues.

Political change (but not political instability) can also be beneficial to the gambling industry and the final quarter of 2007 could see some interesting developments across the region:

Australia - A general election is due before the end of 2007, with Prime Minister John Howard apparently under pressure.

China - The Communist Party National Congress takes place in October and this five-yearly event will reveal details about future policies, including Internet regulation.

South Korea - A presidential election is scheduled for Dec. 19, 2007.

Thailand - The current military junta has set Dec. 23, 2007 as the date for elections.

Politicians in several of these countries are struggling to solve a variety of economic issues, including a widening gap between rich and poor, and the funding of pension and welfare payments.

Consequently, Taiwan’s expansion of its sports lottery to help stimulate the economy could play a key role in prospects for wider regulation in Asia.

The global gambling industry will be watching with interest from April 2008 to see if the chosen operators in Taiwan can create a well-run, profitable sports lottery. If so, it might just remind other Asian governments of gambling’s revenue-generating potential.

Lorien is a research analyst with Global Betting and Gaming Consultants, and currently resides on the Isle of Man. Prior to this, he spent three years at a leading United Kingdom gambling firm, providing regulatory and market research for its various international e-gaming ventures.