Online poker has been in something of a downward spiral for many years at this point. Since Black Friday back in 2011, that saw three of the biggest US facing poker companies fall foul of the law with indictments and hefty loans passed out to all of them, the popularity of this form of online gambling has dropped off to a severe extent.
Add to that the rise of bum hunters preying on recreational gamers in online poker rooms, and the immense increase in the popularity of other game types, such as casino games with live dealers, online poker is, in the eyes of many, on its last legs.
But operators are not giving up, and eyes are turning to Asia as the possible location of a resur-gence on online poker, that may not get it back to the heights of the boom that pre-dated the 2011 events, but may be able to bring poker back to the forefront as opposed to lurking in the shadows as it now is.
Online Poker Growth in Asia
Online poker does not have the rich cultural history in Asian countries that it does in some other jurisdictions around the world, but there has been a definite increase in popularity of the game in recent years.
One of the benefits of Asia, is that even if interest is fairly low in comparison to other parts of the world, it can still have a huge impact due simply to the size of the continent.
So, while a small percentage of Asian players may regularly play online poker, that low percentage still translates into a big number, and it looks only set to grow.
A recent story made it clear that poker is definitely having an impact in Asia, although it’s not a pos-itive story, as a Goldman Sachs employee in India was found to have syphoned millions out of the company to pay off debts accrued at Chinese online poker sites.
This story may be an extreme example, but it does show that online poker is on the rise in Asia, and it is no surprise that many are seeing this as the most likely way to return online poker to the dominance of old.
Huge countries in terms of popularity, like China and India, are spearheading the boom, and the likes of Japan and the Philippines are right on their heels.
Players in India are particularly well known to play live dealer casino games and there are multiple tier 1 live casino brands that are now targeting this market specifically.
The industry is clearly aware of it too, with new poker tours such as the Asian Poker Tour and Asian Pacific Poker Tour gaining traction quickly.
But, as is often the case, while it may seem simple, online poker is getting more popular, therefore success is a surety, it is far from that simple.
It is impossible to discuss online poker (or gambling of any kind) in Asia without considering the laws that are at play.
For example, online poker for real money has always been illegal in China, but this was got around by social apps, which offered poker for ‘Play Money’ which could be obtained via in app purchases.
However, in 2018, the Chinese government announced it would be cracking down on social apps after it emerged that illegal gambling in China was thought to be as much as ten times as lucrative as global legal gambling.
In August 2019, it became very apparent that it was not only China clamping down on poker sites, with partypoker announcing they would be adding Indonesia, Japan, Malaysia, South Korea, and Vietnam to the list of countries barred from the site.
China is an odd one, as people are often not sure how the laws operate, assuming that all form of gambling is illegal outside of Hong Kong and Macau, while other say that it is only unapproved gambling operations.
The laws in other Asian countries are no clearer, while laws and regulations are strict, and there is always the possibility of further crackdowns, it seems that many Asian governments are not that sure of how exactly to regulate online gambling.
For this reason, there is still an attraction to Asian countries from online poker sites looking for something to light the fire that has been so apparently missing for the last eight years or so.
Whether this will be found in the Asian market depends very much on what happens with the law in the future, and the fact that the likes of partypoker have stepped out of some Asian markets suggests that it is not going to be smooth sailing by any degree.
But there is definite excitement around Asia, and if the industry does manage to grow there, even a little in terms of percentage, the financial fallout from that could be huge, and Asia could become the new home of online poker.
But will it? We’re just going to have to wait and see!