Gambling in Asia

21 October 2021

Asian countries are not a homogenous entity, neither in terms of culture nor when it comes to gambling legislation. Some Asians think of making a fortune, betting on the lucky numbers, and spending a Friday night with colleagues playing slot machines. Others frown upon any risky activity and maintain a blanket ban on all gambling activities.

In any case, if you have experience with any European GEOs — Asia is nothing like you know, this audience is rather peculiar and needs a unique approach.

Today we will break down three Asian countries, China, Japan, and South Korea, and define the biggest gambling trends in the region.

Asian culture and gambling

A strong belief in luck and fate is one of the noticeable traits inherent to most Asian countries. Seeking their fortune and asking the supernatural for help in life, business, or gambling is as normal as using an umbrella when it’s raining. Asians are also strong believers in numerology and view gambling as a form of entertainment and social interaction. On the contrary, losing money and drowning in debts is frowned upon in society. This forces unlucky gamblers to play again and again in an attempt to recover their losses.

Gambling in Asia


Gambling search trends in China

Gambling in Asia

Gambling in Asia       Gambling in Asia

Most search queries, whether it’s lottery or casino, predominantly fall into the Eastern and Central provinces of China.

Gambling legislation in China

China is a communist state, therefore, we can expect all kinds of gambling activities to be at least discouraged. Indeed, since 1949 gambling has been banned throughout the country, excluding brick and mortar casinos of Macau (a former Portuguese domain) and Hong Kong. 

Macau — “the Las Vegas of Asia”, a home of at least 41 traditional casinos that mainly target professional well-to-do gamblers. Surprisingly, online casinos are illegal in Macau since 2015.

Hong Kong has a legal yet strictly supervised gambling sector. Hong Kong Jockey Club holds a monopoly on all betting activities, while casino games are a priority of several chosen cruise ships and only outside the island’s territory. The situation with online gambling is equal to that of Macau.

Online gambling registered in China is also illegal, however, there are numerous iGaming sites hosted in the neighboring territories. Many land-based casino halls in adjacent countries target Chinese tourists as a very promising share of their clientele. To fight this, in 2021 the Chinese government even devised a list of blacklisted travel destinations (e.g. Philippines, Myanmar, Malaysia, and Vietnam) to prevent their people from going abroad to play.

There are also two state-run lotteries: China Welfare Lottery (CWL) and the China Sports Lottery (CSL). Chinese people have a chance to bet on international athletes in baseball, basketball, and soccer.

Creatives for gambling campaigns targeting China

Gambling in Asia      Gambling in Asia

Gambling in Asia


Gambling search trends in Japan

Gambling in Asia

The annual national lottery or Takarakuji takes place around the New Year, we can see the repetitive surges in search queries closer to the end of December. Queries on sports betting are almost non-existent. The interest in casino is stable throughout the year and is mostly concentrated in the South and Central regions, with Sapporo being the only Northern city.

Gambling in Asia       Gambling in Asia

Related search queries

  • Drake casino
  • Vera&John casino
  • Casino online
  • takarakuji winners
  • takarakuji numbers
  • takarakuji winning numbers
  • jumbo (a chain of pachinko or a big-prize lottery)

Gambling legislation in Japan

Generally, most kinds of gambling are banned in Japan, but there are some exceptions. For instance, the local legislation allows several forms of sports betting, including horse racing (keiba), cycle racing (keirin), and powerboat racing (kyoutei). Betting shops are a regular meeting point and pass time choice for many adults.

Casinos are allowed since 2028 but mainly in the form of integrated resorts. These target tourists, but Japanese nationals can play as well, although with restrictions on the number of visits and the summarized spend. Pachinko — is the local substitute for traditional casino. These halls are full of slot machines of all sorts, and they offer balls or tokens instead of cash prizes. The tokens can be exchanged for physical prizes like cigarettes or chocolate bars on the premises. Though it is rumored that it is possible to cash these tokens in at the nearby exchange stations that are a completely separate business. Pachinko halls are seen as a form of entertainment, an escape from the routine and problems in real life. They are also highly addictive.

Takarakuji or lotteries are run by cities or prefectures, they are divided into scratch cards, unique numbers, and selected numbers. The tickets cost about 100–150 JPY (1–1.5 USD) and can bring up to a billion yen (~8 million USD). A big share of earnings from this business goes to local charities and government organizations.

Creatives for gambling campaigns targeting Japan

Gambling in Asia Gambling in Asia
Gambling in Asia


Gambling in Asia

South Korea

Gambling search trends in South Korea

Gambling in Asia

 Gambling in Asia        Gambling in Asia

Jeongseon region leads by a long shot (100 to 7 interest points) in casino queries, while the lottery queries are more evenly dispersed.

Related search queries

  • the king casino
  • the king
  • casino site
  • baccarat
  • lotto
  • lottery draw
  • lottery draw time
  • number draw

Gambling legislation in South Korea

Gambling and betting are strictly regulated in South Korea, the rule of thumb is “if you doubt whether it is allowed — it is illegal”. You can find land-based casinos in this country, but they are available mainly to tourists. South Korea has 23 casinos in total (mainly luxury ones), but Koreans can legally visit only the Kangwon Land Casino near Seoul. The usual games include baccarat, roulette, blackjack, and a variety of slot machines.

On the other hand, Koreans can engage in betting and buy lotteries or scratch cards. You can bet on a race-winning cyclist/boat/horse/dog or on a bullfight.

iGaming and betting are also strictly monitored. It is illegal to register and run an iGaming site in South Korea, but Koreans can gamble and make bets on foreign websites. Nevertheless, it is still difficult to access any iGaming sites from the Korean territory, and users are forced to use VPS and other loopholes. The legislation on online gambling and betting is gradually relaxing, and we may see a fully legalized and regulated industry in the future.

Creatives for gambling campaigns targeting South Korea

Gambling in Asia        Gambling in Asia

Gambling in Asian countries: conclusion

  • In many Asian countries, gambling activity is a social activity. Most Asians believe that there is nothing wrong with gambling as a form of paid entertainment, where they can have fun with friends and socialize.
  • Some countries strictly monitor land-based gambling providers (e.g. South Korea), others target tourists and limit their nationals’ desire to play (Japan).
  • It is hard to call Asia a gambling-friendly region, but there is a definite proclivity for games of chance in the majority of Asian cultures.
  • Bear in mind that traffic in Korea and Japan may be on the expensive side.
  • Some numbers are deemed lucky or unlucky (this belief is especially strong in Chinese players). For instance, 8 (sounds just like “fortune” in Chinese), 6 (sounds like “go smoothly”), any number of 9s (means longevity for people, many traditions involve 99 or 999 as well). On the contrary, 4 and 14 sound similar to “death” in several Asian languages. It is better to not use these in your campaigns.
  • Campaigns targeting any of the Asian countries demand a balanced approach: appeal to both cultural traits and social habits while staying on the safe side of local laws.
  • Unique and sometimes weird creatives that don’t make any sense to you, may be just perfect for the Asian audience.
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