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Cultural differences between gambling in the East vs the West.

8 September 2020 China, India, Japan No comment

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With over half of the world’s population residing in Asia it comes as no surprise that a large proportion of people in the East enjoy gambling on a regular basis, whether that be socially amongst friends, within a physical casino, at a race course, pachinko hall or even online.

It can be argued that gambling goes hand-in-hand with Asian culture considering most people throughout the Eastern world put great stock in luck, fate and fortune, especially in China.

Whilst many online casino players believe in superstitions and myths, it’s on no level comparable to Asia, where superstition and spirituality plays such a strong role in the lives of many, people often believe they were born lucky, having been blessed by the gods.

Despite its popularity, gambling is heavily regulated across most of Asia, especially in China. There are hotspots throughout the region that millions flock to regularly to legally enjoy the past-time. These include Macau, the richest casino destination in the world, Hong Kong, known globally for prestigious horse racing and Japan where Pachinko reigns supreme.

With such a high percentage of people keen to gamble across the continent you’d assume that online gambling was incredibly popular, however it’s highly unlikely you’ll find any of the online casinos that Europeans are able to freely enjoy due to the fact that they’ve been blocked by multiple governments. That said, players have been known to find a way to play unscrupulous unlicensed casinos at their own risk. 

 

How culture dictates gameplay in Asian countries

Traditionally Asian players have been much more inclined to play table games in comparison to online slots, card games and roulette, with Baccarat and Sic Bo proving to be the go-to games. It’s thought that players prefer these games due to the fact that there is no sure fire way to win using strategy when participating in either of these games, instead it’s completely down to luck (or fate) which strongly ties into their own ideology..

Games using dominoes are also immensely popular amongst Asian players (particularly Chinese gamblers), these include Mahjong and Pai Gow. It’s unlikely you’ll be able to play either of these games online or in a physical casino, as both are considered more of a social game in which money is wagered amongst friends than anything else.

One notable exception to the rule is Keno, a bingo-style game that was supposedly created around 200 BC to help fund the Great Wall of China. Keno is mostly popular because of the high payouts available, despite only requiring low stakes, making it incredibly accessible to players from all walks of life, not just to socially elite who can afford to gamble on a selection of different games on a regular basis.

 

Pachinko – The quintessential Japanese phenomenon

It’s difficult to discuss gambling in the East without mentioning Pachinko… In Japan Pachinko can almost be considered a national obsession in the same way that Mahjong is in China. For the uninitiated, Pachinko is an incredibly loud, bright and exciting game that’s essentially a unique hybrid between pinball and a slot machine.

Initially aimed at children and found in candy stores across 1920s Japan, the aim of the game is to turn a dial and shoot metal balls into holes strategically placed around pins. If players are successful they’ll eventually launch a slot machine style mini-game that has the potential to pay out a significant amount of balls.

Over the years Pachinko became more and more popular with players. Such is its popularity that in 2018 it was reported that the Japanese spend $200 billion a year on Pachinko and the game accounts for nearly half of the entire country’s leisure activity.

There are even ‘pachinko pros’ amongst the population who will queue up obsessively each and every morning to reach the small handful of machines they believe are prime for a win based on the statistics each machine displays that show how many spins and wins that machine has had.

Rather than win outright cash, Pachinko balls are exchanged for prizes such as electronics or other consumer goods, however players can also exchange their balls for plastic disks containing silver or gold that can be swapped for real money elsewhere. Interestingly, prizes cannot actually be awarded inside the Pachinko parlour itself due to Japanese gambling laws.

This unique game combining both chance and skill is a staple of Japanese culture and despite falling in somewhat of a shady grey area its popularity is only increasing year-on-year.

 

Betting on fate – Asian-themed online slot games

Online casino and slot game enthusiasts will be well aware that a large portion of games out there right now heavily feature Asian theming. These titles are fairly easy to come by and often have golden reels adorned with dragons, geishas, carps and pagodas. Popular Asian themed games include: Dragon’s Luck, Matsuri, Double Dragons, Asian Beauty and Cherry Blossoms.

With so many of these games out there, it poses the question why? If online gambling is banned throughout the East then why do developers continue to develop games that heavily promote Asian culture? Ultimately it comes down to two key reasons.

Firstly, statistics show that Westerners enjoy playing them, it’s that simple. Secondly, because developers have taken inspiration from physical slot creators who invented machines targeted at Asian tourists in Las Vegas, Atlantic City and other gambling hotspots around the world.

As mentioned, it’s a common Asian mentality that everything is ultimately driven by fate. This didn’t go unnoticed by casinos who knew that there was a huge international audience of over 4 billion people to tap into, appealing to them with themed slot games made complete sense.

Naturally these slots have made their way online where they still reach an Asian audience. Where slot games are available, Asian focused online slot developers such as Ganapati have capitalised heavily, releasing Japanese themed games that utilise the popular anime art-style. The studio has also released a slot based on legendary Filipino boxer Manny Pacquiao.

The future of Gambling in the East

There are parts of Asia that are slowly becoming more liberal as time goes on, with one major gambling market emerging as a potential hotbed of activity, India. 

The country of 1.3 billion inhabitants is slowly catching onto online gambling, helped somewhat by the fact that the number of smartphone users across the country is rising year on year.

As there’s no specific gambling legislation that rules online gambling illegal in India (outside of the Public Gambling Act of 1867 which only covers physical casinos and betting shops), offshore operators are able to market themselves towards Indian players. The only legal requirement for operators is that they allow players to use Indian Rupees as a payment method.

With sports betting now becoming increasingly popular in the country as well, it looks likely that widespread legislation will come forward in the not-so-distant future so that the Government can reap the rewards from the much needed tax revenue.

Other countries across Asia are beginning to relax their attitude towards gambling, however mainly for the benefit of tourism. By law South Korea only has a single casino in which citizens can play, the Kangwon Land Casino & Hotel. Legal forms of gambling can also be found in the Philippines and Singapore where surprisingly well regulated markets are thriving.

For China though, it’s highly unlikely that gambling outside of the designated gambling zones will be a thing any time soon, but countries outside of their direct sphere of influence may well make progressive moves towards legalisation in the future.

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