Gambling by mobile phone is on the rise worldwide and the biggest
growth in the industry is expected to take place in Asia. But, an unclear
legal situation in most of the region could slow the market's growth.
Governments from Singapore to South Korea are increasingly lifting
restrictions on gambling. But gamblers do not have to wait for new casinos
to open to place their bets: They can just use their mobile phones.
Walter Adamson, an Australian consultant for Internet and mobile
services, says the requirement for what is called mobile gambling is a
phone that can connect to the Internet, where gaming operators offer
"The provider of your system needs to provide a mobile Internet service
and many telephone companies, particularly in Japan, [South] Korea and
increasingly in China, provide Internet services on the mobile phone,"
said Walter Adamson. "Then they can access any Internet site that is
designed for access by mobile phones."
Europe is the largest market for mobile gambling, but
telecommunications analysts predict that Asia will catch up soon.
British Informa, a telecom and media consulting company, forecasts that
close to 100 million people in the Asia-Pacific region will use mobile
phones to place bets in 2010, half of the users globally.
The mobile gambling market in Asia is just starting to take off. Its
growth is still limited by the lack of suitable phones. Another obstacle
for gaming operators is the unclear legal situation in many places.
Legal gambling by phone is so far restricted to only a few countries.
In Hong Kong, gamblers can use mobile phones to bet on horses and football
through the city's Jockey Club, and China authorizes lotteries via mobile
phone. But remote casino-style gambling is only allowed in the Philippines
and Macau. In most of the region, mobile gambling remains a gray area in
terms of government regulations.
But Yap Wai Ming, director of the Stamford Law Corporation in
Singapore, says even in those places gambling by phone is already
"Legally it is not possible but practically speaking people are already
offering it," said Yap Wai Ming. "I give you an example, the casino. There
are a lot of Internet casinos that are not regulated but people are still
playing on it and money is still being exchanged. Only if they are caught
they will be punished."
Gambling has long been a passion in much of Asia, with legal and
illegal operators running lotteries, horse races, cockfights and other
betting games. Some countries have expanded legal gambling in recent
years, including Hong Kong, which has legalized soccer betting, and
Singapore, which plans to allow its first casino to open in a few years.
Many governments are cautious about legalizing mobile betting, because
it draws money away from legal domestic operators, which pay taxes, or
because of social concerns about the dangers of gambling.
Gambling operators hope that regulatory and technical challenges will
be resolved in the next few years, because the mobile gambling market is
lucrative. The Asia-Pacific region is forecast to generate revenue of
nearly $3 billion in 2010.