by Tony Ure, Head of eGaming, Digital Isle of Man
The usual eGaming event calendar has shifted dramatically this past year due to the global pandemic, and in lieu of attending physical events, we continue to turn our attention to the virtual world, with online events still providing the international gaming sector an excellent opportunity to debate and discuss the trends reshaping its landscape. As ever, there are various panels and seminars as well as informal conversations looking at interesting themes, from continued technology disruption to regulatory changes and from cybersecurity to consolidation. One of the main trends which continues to be talked about is the growth of the Asian market and the resulting opportunities and challenges for the industry.
Asia accounts for about 60% of the worldwide population and combines several expanding world economies (China, Japan, India), so it is no surprise that it is one of the largest gambling markets in the world. The eGaming industry in the region has continued its growth trajectory and this can be aptly illustrated by the year-on-year growth in revenues. In fact, according to a market research report published by Transparency Market Research, the online gambling & betting market in Asia Pacific is anticipated to expand at a significant compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of around 14% between 2018 and 2026.
This unprecedented growth is driven by the new generation of the middle classes, easy access to mobile and tablet applications, improving broadband internet connectivity, and a cultural history of gambling dating back centuries. A talented player base, competitive domestic competitions and the accessibility of the digital world has created an audience that are extremely tech savvy, as well as immensely passionate. Businesses are battling to reach this young, new and passionate fanbase but demand is still outstripping supply. For the next few years, operators that offer further high-quality products will stand to benefit from this demand.
For investors, the continued rise in the popularity of eGaming in Asia has created new avenues on various fronts, from investing in technological infrastructure to supporting local expertise to running gambling operations. The recent developments in Cambodia and the PAGCOR imposed moratorium on new licensees may have cast doubt on the attraction of further investment in these regions however companies and investors affected by these developments do have options further afield.
There are opportunities for Asian operators looking to expand into the West, and with the M&A activity associated with maturing markets there are opportunities for Western operators to increase their market reach into Asia. The robust yet flexible regulation available from International Business Centres such as the Isle of Man ensures quality corporate governance which in turn increases the attractiveness of companies to investors as well as opening new doors in other geographical areas.
Newer business models such as those enabled through cryptocurrency and blockchain technology are interesting areas for investors, with potentially very lucrative results. Blockchain technology is becoming ever more popular in the gaming sector, as evidenced by the increase in applications the Isle of Man has received for gaming operations utilising this tech and savvy investors will be keeping up to date with related developments and opportunities.
Despite the phenomenal growth over the last decade or two, there are several challenges facing operators targeting the Asian market. The region is very fragmented with some countries encouraging the online gaming sector, some discouraging it, some enforcing outright bans and some with un-enforced legislation. Most countries are in a state of flux with regulations and requirements changing regularly. Therefore ensuring the compliance function within a company is operating to high standards is essential. The Compliance Teams often have different levels of compliance requirements to adhere to, so often operating to the highest standards is the best way to ensure all markets are covered, especially as AML/CFT/Source of Wealth requirements are becoming ever more important in the modern world of international trade and no company wants to be associated with tainted funds.
Other challenges for eGaming operators in Asia include satisfying local languages and customs, understanding regional game type preferences and securing an easy and secure mechanism for transferring money. Furthermore, the continent’s regulatory environment keeps changing; there is no unified approach and operators need to deal with inconsistencies in terms of rules and regulations. However, these challenges can be overcome as the eGaming industry continues to mature in the region, with a solid premise for further development.
The Asian eGaming market has been a very interesting place to watch over the last few years and we expect that to continue. It is no secret that operators focussing on the region face a lot of competition and it won’t be long until several companies are battling for dominance over this lucrative region. Operators will need to provide innovative solutions and be ahead of the curve in embracing new trends if want to stand out in the market, otherwise they risk being left behind.
Operators targeting this market are looking for jurisdictions which have a strong reputation and strike a balance between keeping crime out and supporting high quality businesses. They also want a jurisdiction base with a robust telecommunications infrastructure, strong data security capabilities and an understanding of the Asian gaming model. As such, the Isle of Man, with its strong eGaming proposition, continues to be well placed to make the most of opportunities coming from this interesting region.
We welcome continued conversations about the Asian eGaming market and the Isle of Man’s place in its impressive growth story.
Contact us to find out more about licensing your online gambling business in the Isle of Man.
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