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Macau Debates Regulating Online Gambling

Despite the fact that it’s quickly become Asia’s biggest casino hotspot, in Macau, online gambling is not legalized or regulated.

A special administrative region of China, Macau operates more or less autonomously. So, in theory, it could legalize and regulate online gambling, even if that never happens in China. But the question is, will it?

During last week’s iGaming Asia congress in Macau, gambling business leaders advocating doing just that — not only in Macau, but throughout Southeast Asia.

“The Macau Special Administrative Region (MSAR) has no law for online gaming but this gap only makes it easier for an illegal industry to thrive, executives said yesterday during the iGaming Asia congress,” writes Vítor Quintã at the Macau Daily Times.

In Macau, casino operators aren’t authorized to offer Internet gaming. But, as with many other contries, Macua does allow Internet betting on local dog and horse races, “as well as to bet on overseas football and basketball games”.  

Considering that Macau rivals Las Vegas in casino-based tourism, and given that gambling makes up 40 percent of Macau’s economy, it makes sense that, like Vegas, city leaders in Macau are debating offering regulated online gambling to boost revenues. Last year, a government spokesperson said it was studying the issue. But “no specific timetable for the enactment of the online gambling law is set as it is still in the preliminary drafting stage.”

“All jurisdictions in Asia should be regulated,” Jose Mari Ponce, administrator for the Cagayan Economic Zone Authority (Philippines), said at the congress, per the article, complaining that online gambling in most of Asia “remains a grey area.”

Such lack of regulatory framework prevents business leaders from truly tapping Asia’s online gambling potential, Ponce continued. “The current outlook is that online [gaming] is a competitor of land-based gaming,” he said. “I don’t agree. I believe it’s a way to open up a wider market.”

The problem with cross-border activity was cited; some 5,000 arrests were made in Asia last year, connected to online betting on the World Cup, because of those cross-border restrictions — arrests that could have been prevented if online gambling were regulated in Asia and Macau.