Casinos have become a highly lucrative business across the Asia-Pacific region in recent decades, with new developments popping up in Macau, Singapore, Philippines, Cambodia, New Zealand, Myanmar, and more. The boom in the gambling industry has occurred in tandem with the rise of the tourism sector in this area, incentivizing locals to invest in the expansion of casinos in their countries.
Both Singapore and Macau are notorious to travelers as some of the best places to visit in Asia if you want to gamble. However, there have been signs that Singapore is beginning to overtake Macau as the number one gambling destination.
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Singapore has been something of an underdog amongst the large gambling players in Southeast Asia. The first casino in the country opened in 2010 – much later than its largest competitor, Macau. However, from this pivotal moment onwards, Singapore has attracted throngs of gaming enthusiasts from all over the world.
As well as land-based casinos, the digital gaming industry has grown. There are a growing number of betting providers in Singapore in 2023, which shows just how popular the activity is becoming amongst residents. However, it’s not just locals that enjoy gambling in Singapore.
The introduction of gambling in the region came as part of efforts to boost the tourism sector of the country, which was in fierce competition with Macau, Bangkok, Malaysia, and other neighboring countries. Developing casinos not only gave incentive to local and international tourists to visit resorts in Singapore, but it provided an estimated 30,000+ jobs to residents.
Gaming was legalized in Macau in 1847, but it was not until the People’s Republic of China opened up the market in 2002 that casino licensing was legalized for the country. Since this time, gaming revenue in the country has skyrocketed thanks to the introduction of new business models and investors. For example, annual revenue in 2013 reached US$45.09 billion in 2013, a record-breaking number.
A large reason for the relaxing of gambling laws in Macau was that revenue from the industry brought in important economic funds for the government, and allowed them to make positive socio-economic and environmental changes for their population. The financial strengthening of Macau due to the development of casinos led to increased social welfare, higher incomes for residents, and improved public resources and facilities.
Asia has a dynamic and exciting casino culture, with numerous countries across the continent offering all different kinds of gambling experiences for both tourists and locals alike. The best country to travel to depends on your favorite type of game. For example, enthusiasts of greyhound racing will find everything they need and more in Macau, whereas lovers of casino resorts should be sure to visit Singapore.
Because of the rules and regulations surrounding gambling in many Asian countries, integrated casinos are a huge part of the culture. As well as playing traditional and Western casino games, players can find a whole host of other activities to keep them entertained, like live shows, restaurants, and more.
Although the digital gambling industry is yet to see widespread legalization in Asia, there are up-and-coming markets for the practice in multiple countries, including Singapore. Therefore, online casino games might become more commonplace in future as they become more popular amongst citizens.
The most popular countries in Asia where gambling has been legalized are as follows:
Gambling in Singapore is regulated by several laws, namely the Gambling Regulatory Authority of Singapore Act, the Casino Control Act, and the Gambling Control. These statutes dictate that the only permitted lottery operator is Singapore Pools, and that casinos must only be developed within integrated resorts.
In the past, gambling was legalized briefly in Singapore during the time of British colonial rule, but this was outlawed within a few short years, and since then the act has been subject to strict legislation.
In 2022, the Gambling Regulatory Authority (GRA) was reconstituted from the dissolved Casino Regulatory Authority (CRA). The CRA had been formed in 2008 with the intention of regulating the operation and management of land-based casinos in Singapore. They ensured that these spaces were free from any form of exploitation or criminal activity, and that no minors or vulnerable people in society were not harmed in their creation or running. The GRA is now in charge of all gambling activities in the country, but works alongside the Singapore Police Force, who deal with enforcement and other related issues.
The current minimum gambling age is 21 years old, except for lotteries with Singapore Pools, where the minimum age is set to 18 years. Despite these age requirements, there are no set rules for taking part in physical social gambling, defined as games taking place in-person, within the home, with either members of the same family or individuals who know each other, such as friends.
Gambling in Macau was legalized by the Portuguese government over 150 years ago, and has been nicknamed the “Las Vegas of Asia”. Until the 20th century, it was mostly Chinese games that were played in casinos, because popular Western-style games had not yet been introduced to the region.
The main types of gambling that are legal in Macau are casino games, lotteries, sports betting, and greyhound racing. The online gambling industry has not yet become licensed, meaning that land-based casinos are the primary way for residents to partake in gambling.
The main regulatory body for gambling in Macau is the Gaming Inspection and Coordination Bureau (DICJ). The DICJ ensures that all gambling undertaken in the country is licensed and that all residents playing games are aged 21 or over.
When looking at the gambling industry in Singapore vs. Macau, and the regulations that each country holds, it’s also important to discuss the impact that Covid-19 had on performance. The dip in revenue that Macau is experiencing is partially down to the strict policy that the country has on the coronavirus pandemic. The country had multiple shutdowns of its casinos during community outbreaks, which negatively impacted the ability of the gaming sector to earn any money.
As of 2022, Macau had fallen behind Singapore when it came to regional gross game revenue (GGR). Singapore managed to hit highs of US$788 million between July and September of 2022 from the two casino resorts in the country; Marina Bay Sands and the Resorts World Sentosa complex.
Macau, in comparison, saw a decrease in its GGR by 34.7%. When examining the same time period, figures revealed that revenue amounted to US$688.4 million, a significant decrease from previous years, and substantially lower than Singapore.
Historically, Macau has been a pioneer of the gambling industry in Asia, but as of late, it seems to have been overtaken by Singapore. This is not to say that Macau is still a giant in the Asian casino sector: its long history of gaming speaks for itself, as does its global reputation. What these figures tell us, instead, is that Singapore is on the rise, thanks to its land-based casinos and budding online casino games. Both countries are now taking center-stage in the world gambling sector.
To summarize, there are many differences between gambling regulations and culture in Singapore and Macau. The former is much more of a late-starter, exploding in recent years into the industry and progressing rapidly, both through casino resorts and online gaming options. Macau, on the other hand, is a historical figure in the Asian gambling world, and has a rich history of casinos and betting games.
Modern figures seem to suggest that Singapore is overtaking Macau in many aspects of gambling, perhaps most importantly in terms of financial revenue. There is still time for Macau to get back on equal footing, though, as the stagnating impact of Covid-19 dies down and allows the country to restore its status as one of the gambling giants of the world.
Featured image: unsplash
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