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The future is bright

Susan O’ Leary, CEO of Alderney eGambling, says Asia is moving in the right direction when it comes to legalizing and regulating online gambling.

Asia is one of the hottest pre-regulated markets right now. There is tremendous interest among lawmakers, operators and suppliers keen to see regulatory frameworks rolled out across the continent, opening the digital doors to legal, safe online gambling for the very first time.

The region is primed for online gambling; consumers are hungry to engage with the activity and the availability and penetration of technology is high. The good news is that progress is on the horizon; key decision makers now understand the benefit of licensing and regulation, and are keen to deploy their own frameworks.

While some operators and suppliers are happy to take a considered approach to Asia and will launch as and when they are permitted to do so, others have entered regardless. It must be remembered that Asia is a complex market, with different countries having different gambling laws.

As such, it is important for those already live or those considering launching prior to the roll out of clear regulatory frameworks to educate themselves as to the state of play in each market. They must understand the subtleties and quirks, and ensure they are as compliant as can be.

Established regulators are best placed to guide businesses through the licensing process, and to prepare them for launch in the Asian markets they have identified. While the traps encountered differ from country to country, there are key factors that should always be taken into account.

Operators and suppliers should educate themselves as to the legal nature of online gambling; is it outright illegal, is it illegal but the law not being enforced, is it legal so long as they partner with a land-based operator, or perhaps, as in the Philippines, they must obtain a licence from the local regulator.

We also recommend operators and suppliers fully research player preferences in the market they are looking to enter. Consider the popularity of market-specific games – mahjong is popular in China while pachinko is huge in Japan – and whether your proposition is a good fit.

They should also gain a full understanding of the financial structures in place in each country, and whether they can support their business – are banks local, national or international, for example. They should also understand the AML protocols they have in place, and whether they offer sufficient protection.

It is also worth assessing the stability of the country’s currency, as well as how to repatriate funds. Businesses may want to move their profits from accounts held in Asia to those held elsewhere, but different countries have different rules and processes. It’s important to understand these.

The key to launching in any new market – in Asia or elsewhere – is striking the right balance between risk and reward. Sure, Asia offers plenty of upsides, but there are equally as many traps operators and suppliers can fall into. It’s also important to take into consideration how launching in one market may impact your licence in another.

With that in mind, operators and suppliers should only enter markets where they are comfortable with the risk and the effect it might have on their wider business. To help make that decision, it is important to work with an established regulator, such as the Alderney Gambling Control Commission (AGCC).

They can help businesses prepare for launch in new markets and ensure they are fully compliant; the AGCC has long-standing relationships with regulators and lawmakers across Asia, as well as with local operators and suppliers. This means it knows exactly what it takes to launch successfully.

The AGCC has developed an Asian Betting Model to meet the unique demands of the Far East market. In addition, Asian operators can obtain an AGCC licence from any country via the regulator’s new Category 1 Associate Certificate B2C – the only licence of its type in the world.

Widespread regulation is coming to Asia, but it will take time. Some will be happy to take a wait and see approach while a clearer picture emerges, but others will want to seize the first-mover advantage. Those that do must approach with caution, and working with an established regulator will allow them to do just that.

Asia Gaming Brief is a news and intelligence service providing up to date market information for worldwide executives on relevant gaming issues in Asia.

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