Online gambling in 2019 has certainly evolved far past the old days of poker sites, with online casinos making real efforts to take advantage of the latest available technologies in their games. So where exactly is online gambling now, and where could it potentially be heading in several years time?
As of right now, Macau, the United States, and the United Kingdom lead the way in terms of global gambling revenue. Of all countries around the world, Macau boasts the highest gambling revenue, mostly from tourism. In fact, online gambling is actually illegal in Macau. What’s interesting here is that Macau has managed to become a leader in gambling revenue, due to tourism from Hong Kong and mainland China. Most forms of gambling remain illegal in China, except state-run lotteries.
But what we’ve actually been seeing is a humongous surge of Chinese-owned online casinos, through proxies in the Philippines. Several years ago, the Philippines introduced a law that allows POGOs (Philippines Offshore Gambling Operators) to legally register and operate within the country. This led to a massive surge, starting in 2016, of an estimated 150,000 – 250,000 Chinese nationals to move to Manila for work in the online gambling industry.
This has become a massive concern for the Philippines and mainland Chinese governments. The current theory is that the Philippines government tolerates the huge amount of Chinese nationals working illegally in the Philippines, because online gambling has caused massive amounts of Chinese funds to flow out of China and into the Philippines. In fact, it is estimated for this industry to reach 20 billion PHP (around $380 million USD) by the end of 2019.
The mainland China administration has been putting pressure on the Philippines to help end this activity, and because the current President of the Philippines, Rodrigo Duterte, seeks amicable relationships with China, he has made promises to help “crack down” on Chinese POGO workers. So far, the Philippines has put forward the idea of moving Chinese workers to “POGO hubs” – literally, self-contained communities for Chinese POGO workers, to make it easier to monitor the industry.
Online casinos as a form of economic competition
What does any of this have to do with online gambling as a whole, you might ask? A lot, in fact. As we mentioned above, Macau currently leads in tourism-based gambling revenue, but the Philippines is quickly moving up the ladder in online-gambling revenue, due to a tremendous gambling culture in China. The majority of bets placed in Philippines-based online casinos come from Chinese nationals, who bet through VPNs and proxies to skirt Chinese government firewalls.
If the Chinese government did actually convince the Philippines to completely put a stop to Chinese POGO workers, this could potentially create a huge vacuum in the Asian online gambling scene. The Philippines would seek out other countries for setting up online casinos within the Philippines, potentially including western countries such as the United States.
Due to a history of trade wars and economic competition between China and the United States, it’s not hard to imagine the United States seeing online gambling in the Philippines as a potential for funneling Chinese currency out of the mainland, and into the pockets of American casino operators.
Predicting an online casino pivot to Asia
All of this is extremely important to consider when thinking about the future trends of online gambling. Why, you might ask? Why did we just spend so much time talking about the online gambling scene in Asia? Because the Philippines proved something that has been overlooked for many years. Whether or not it’s illegal in mainland China, there is massive profit to be made from targeting mainland Chinese customers, who will find methods of placing online bets.
Not only does this mean online gambling may be utilized in global economic competition in the foreseeable future, it means we could see a shift towards targeting Chinese gamers – which means an increased number of online casinos offering traditional Chinese betting games.
This is not far-fetched at all. In fact, it would’ve been infinitely more far-fetched to write an article revolving around the possibilities of online gambling in relation to virtual reality / augmented reality technology, which are merely niche products. Augmented reality is in the earliest infancy stages, and it’s too soon to be making predictions. Virtual reality has been available for several years, and has in fact had minimal impact on the online gambling industry. They’re barely worth talking about at this stage.
The most popular online casino games continue to be slots, followed by blackjack, roulette, poker, and craps, in that order. There’s a particularly wide variety of slot games available online such as at this online casino.
Live dealer games are also growing in popularity. It is highly likely that these games will continue in popularity, but we’ll also see a rise in more traditional Chinese gambling games, including Baccarat, Mahjong, Pachinko, and “e-sabong.”
So our ultimate prediction is that while online casinos may continue to flirt with evolving technology, what’s ultimately going to change is the market. There is way too much profit potential in mainland China and other Asian countries for online casino operators to ignore in the near future.