Smoking Aces – Poker’s Dramatic Rise in Asia

10 years ago, Poker in Asia was a virtually unknown commodity and you couldn’t pick out a poker player from a crowd. Today, you’d be hard-pressed to find someone who doesn’t play the game, or at the very least, doesn’t know how it works.

While it was popular across America — specifically in California — and some parts of Europe, poker remained in the dark among Asian countries. For a long time, land-based companies have expressed interest in pursuing the Asian market but have been largely unsuccessful in part because most of these countries – with the exception of Macau – banned any form of gambling. As a result, poker remained a Western game, completely detached from the East.

10 years later and it’s a different story altogether.

It’s no secret that poker’s popularity experienced an unprecedented surge with the introduction of online poker. Not only that but broadcasts of the World Series of Poker and the World Poker Tour introduced the game to millions of casual viewers.

But most importantly, poker’s introduction to Asia happened because the countries slowly began to open its collective arms to land-based and on-line gambling.

The allure of Asia as a poker crazy region comes as no surprise considering almost half of the world’s population can be found there. China and India alone comprise almost 2.5 billion people when combined and that’s not even counting Indonesia, Japan, and the Philippines — densely populated countries in their own right. With all these people starting to get familiarized with the game and the attraction that comes with it, it was only a matter of time before poker games and poker tournaments exploded in the region.

And now, to say that Texas Hold ‘Em, unquestionably the most popular type of poker, is being played everywhere is a vast understatement. Poker rooms are sprouting like full-blown seeds all over Asia. Macau, a baccarat-dominated country, is slowly beginning to experience the thrill that is poker. In recent years, it has hosted numerous poker tournaments including the Asian Poker Tour Macau 2008. Incidentally, the APT now has its very own poker room at the Galaxy StarWorld Hotel and Casino.

Even in the Philippines, poker is growing faster than you can say, “All-In!” The country has hosted its fair share of tournaments not the least of which is the Asian Poker Tour. As a matter of fact, the success of last year’s APT tournament – which drew well over 316 poker players from all over the world – has resulted in the APT holding another tournament to kick off its 2009 season. The Asian Poker Tour Philippines 2009 will be held from January 27 to February 1, 2009 at the Dusit Thani Manila Hotel and it is widely expected that some of the best poker players from around the world will participate in the event.

Asian poker players have also become instrumental in the propagation of poker in Asia. Some of the best poker players in the world, including Johnny Chan, Men “The Master” Nguyen, JC Tran, Nam Le, Steve Sung, Quinn Do, David Rheem and Kwang Soo Lee all trace their roots in Asia and their impact in the world poker scene hasn’t gone unnoticed.

With the meteoric rise of poker in Asia, it only seems inevitable that more and more of the future top players of poker will come from the region. It’s a testament to a game that only ten years ago was not even an afterthought. From the darkness of obscurity, poker has risen to become one of the most popular games in Asia.

With the way things are going, it’s a safe bet that poker is far from reaching its peak popularity and that’s good news, not only for Asia, but for the entire world.

Online Casinos Take to Stock Market in Europe

Online gambling already has a place on the London Stock Exchange, and this trend is set to continue boldly as worldwide acceptance of internet gaming increases. The UK online gambling site Betfair is considering a stock float of £1.5 billion in 2010. Founders Andrew Black and Ed Wray, who own 25% of the firm will then realize £375 million, and are likely to sell some of their holdings if the stock increases as expected after the offering.

Another big financial move in the online casino business is the upcoming merger between PartyGaming PLC and Bwin Interactive Entertainment. This will create the world’s largest online wagering empire, leading the market in casino, games, sports betting, and poker. Shareholders of both the entities have approved of the merger, and the deal is expected to be complete in the first quarter of 2011, and the resulting company will be traded on the London Stock Exchange. Before the merger, the companies combined had net gaming revenues in 2009 of 682 million euros.

PartyGaming is based in Gibralter, and Bwin is based in Austria. After the merger, Bwin’s assets and liabilities will transfer to PartyGaming, and the new joint company will be based in Gibralter and at that time will be de-listed from the Vienna Stock Exchange.

The merger of these two online gaming giants is likely to prompt more mergers and acquisitions, particularly when coupled with a worldwide trend of relaxing gambling laws.

Another trend that is likely to improve the fortunes of the internet gaming industry is the increase in the use of mobile devices for online wagering. The value of the mobile online gaming sub-sector is valued at around $20 billion (US) in 2010, and that value is expected to grow rapidly in 2011.

Currently, the main thing holding back the impending surge in mobile gaming is that mobile device brands and media owners are waiting on various international legalities of online gambling to work themselves out, particularly in the US, which would represent an enormous market if legislation is passed by the US Congress clarifying the legal status of online casinos in the US.

Nevertheless, some companies are developing and testing mobile platforms in anticipation of growth in the market, and the UK has led the way in this effort. Other areas of the world expected to contribute significantly to the growing market in mobile internet gambling include Europe as a whole, which currently makes up 37% of the market. The Asia-Pacific region makes up nearly 40% of the market. The biggest contributors to the fortunes of mobile gambling in terms of games are expected to be lotteries, with sports betting coming in second, and casino gaming following in third place.

Poker and Asia

Across the world, we see an explosion of the game of poker.

Australian Joe Hachem’s big 2005 WSOP win inevitably triggered increased interest in the game Down Under, and lifted the attention of people in the Asia Pacific towards poker. Those in the poker industry in established countries see the vast opportunity for bringing poker competitions to Asia.

Already Asia has, in the 6 months prior to the writing of this article, seen at least 3 new tournaments sprouting around the Asian continent. The most famous of these was the Asian Poker Tour held in Singapore.

The APT is a prelude to Singapore’s 2 new integrated resorts, of which casinos formed the highlight component. The integrated resorts are major commercial and residential property developments introduced by the Singapore Government’s as its latest initiative to drive the Singapore economy and to grow Singapore into a major tourist destination for the region.

But Singapore is not the only destination in Asia with a draw for the poker player’s dollar. Macau has, less than a decade after the liberalisation of its casino restrictions, recently surpassed the dominant Las Vegas as the highest revenue generating gambling destination in the world. Perhaps there are benefits to introducing casinos and poker to the Asian region still enjoying rapid economic growth and populated by some two thirds of the world’s population.

Singapore and Macau in the Asia Pacific are sure to provide many more opportunities to play poker in this region.

All the signs are that poker can be bigger here than it could ever be in Europe and North America. Indeed, with the recent passing of the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act in the US, several major companies have adopted the policy of completely restricting US citizens from playing in the US. The result is that these companies are actively promoting their poker games to Europe, Australia, and soon, you will find, Asia as well. There are no borders in the internet and any individual sitting in Manchester, Melbourne or Macau can play poker online.

Asia will have its challenges in the development of this industry. Many countries are of conservative values or are still staunch in religions or beliefs and hence that may look poorly upon poker. Of course, the starting perception of poker is as part of gambling and betting and gaming.

However, these are no different from issues once faced by poker players in other continents. Indeed, the perception of poker worldwide is changing. There is argument that poker should be seen more as a sport due to the dominance of skill over the element of chance involved in poker. An increasing number of people do not turn professional to play roulette or other casino games – they turn professional to play poker because there are opportunities to influence the course of game with skill.

Asia Poker Tour – The Game of Poker in Asia

The game of poker is getting more popular in Asia nowadays. You can see more and more Asia poker sites being launched every day. Now, Asians are more interested in the poker industry and always seeking out opportunities to compete in poker tournaments.

There are many poker tournaments that are held in Asia, with the Singapore Asian Poker Tour (APT) being the most popular among them. The APT that is held in Singapore is a prelude to Singapore’s 2 new integrated resorts, with casinos being the main highlight of the place. This is the first casino in Singapore and I am sure that this latest initiative by the Singapore government will definitely drive the country’s economy forward and make Singapore a tourist attraction.

Other than Singapore, Macau is also fast becoming an attractive destination for poker players and Asia Poker Tour. After the liberalisation of Macau’s casino restrictions, it has now surpassed Las Vegas as the highest revenue generating gambling destination in the world. More Asians are rushing to Macau over the weekend to enjoy poker games and it definitely makes it an ideal place to hold any Asia Poker Tour. As Asia is populated by almost two thirds of the world’s population, it may be a wise choice to introduce more casinos in the Asia Pacific region.

In the States, there is an Unlawful Internet Gambling law which makes many companies in the US to restrict US citizens from gambling online. Therefore, in the next few years, you should be expecting these companies to aggressively market their poker rooms to other parts of the world like Australia, Asia, and Europe. As Internet has no physical boundary, anyone residing in Singapore, Australia or England can play poker online.

However, it is not always smooth sailing for Asia. As Asians are more conservative due to religions or beliefs, they may not be too receptive to poker. I believe it will take some time before Asians become more receptive to gambling and playing poker online.

As time passes by, the perception of poker will definitely change. Many people feel that poker should be seen as a sports rather than just gambling. Because to play well in poker, an individual needs to have a certain level of skill, and not only depend on the element of chance or luck to win a game. As you can see, more people are turning professional to play poker because they feel that they can influence the perception of the game through their skills.

But one thing for sure, you can be expecting more poker tournaments to be held around Asia. Poker is coming to Asia, and for those who does not get into this industry, it is something for them to lose.

Gambling in Asia

While many religions and moralists may object to the act of gambling, it cannot be denied that it could, through proper legalization and monitoring, benefit nations as a whole. Illegal gambling may pose problems to a society, but as many nations are slowly discovering, its legalization coupled with proper controls can, in fact, turn out to be a better solution.

Around the world, western countries like the United States of America remains to be the few places to earn revenue through legal gambling. This, however, does not mean that Asian countries are missing out this big opportunity. Already countries like Macau are advancing in their ‘gambling industry’, reaping about US$2.5 billion in early of year 2011. Of course, Macau, otherwise known as the ‘Monte Carlo of the Orient’ is quite unique, having had legalized gambling since the 1850s and is still the only Chinese territory that fully allows gambling. In fact, gambling is what boosts its tourism sectors, making it Macau’s biggest source of income.

Other countries, having witnessed the lucrative benefits, slowly but surely followed suits. In Malaysia, it is legal to gamble as long as it is operated under government permit or license; gambling at homes or in public places are considered as illegal. However, the legality of gambling are also restricted to certain ages and religions – one must be a non-Muslim and over the age of 18 in order to enter any legal gambling premises. By far, Genting Highlands’ casino resorts still draw large group of ‘tourists’, most of them from neighboring countries.

One of these neighboring countries happens to be Singapore, who used to be an anti-gambling nation. As a result, most gambling Singaporeans would travel to Malaysia and few came home with a fortune. Pressured to retain those income within Singapore as well as to boost the tourism industry, Singapore finally lifted its gambling ban in year 2005 and the very first Singapore casino was opened to public in early year 2010. The billions of dollars poured into this economy certainly did not disappoint; not only have the casinos vastly improved the country’s tourism but it was also predicted that Singapore may take over Last Vegas’ spot of the world’s second largest gambling hub.

But there is yet another up and coming Asian country that will attempt to knock Singapore off its glorious seat, and may just as well do so successfully. The Philippines generated about US$69.58 million in gambling industry in early year of 2011, all thanks to their gambling-favored laws that allow both offline and online casinos. There has yet to be any precedence or law that prevents the legitimization of online gambling. This is not surprising as gambling not only brought in tourists and income, it is also indirectly brought in foreign investors, something that the Philippines are lacking. However, legal online gambling sites are limited to only foreigners while Filipinos can gamble away at any government owned sites.

With more Asian countries slowly opening up to the idea of an industry for legal gambling, it may not be long before Asia become the main port in gambling tourism. Even now, the Asia market is slowly increasing and more people are flocking over for an integrated experience – from traveling, sightseeing, and all the way to gambling.

Larry Lim writes online articles and press releases on a wide range of topics from internet marketing and education to property, with a focus on the Southeast Asian region. He is currently trending on online casino, online poker and sports betting Indonesia.

Online Casino Gambling in Asia

The concept of online casino gambling had actually began in the islands of Caribbean. It was in 1994 when Antilles Island became the catalyst for the industry of online gambling. It was also on that same year when Antigua, an island located in the West Indies, voted in favor of a bill that will regulate licenses for Internet gambling. Looking back at its origins, you can merely see how online gambling has popularized. And now, those casino sites have been around for along period of time, providing you with the best online gambling experience.

Perhaps one of the areas wherein online casinos have been widely opened is in Asia. Since 900 A.D, Asians have been heavily attached to recreational activities. In fact early Chinese is believed to be the first people who invented playing cards. Aside from having a great passion for gambling, Asians were also equipped with skills that works well in casino table games. They are as well one of the fast-developing markets for internet gambling.

Online casino gambling in Asia has been the hottest topic for industry experts nowadays. They even concluded that the region is the best place for online gambling developments in the present and in the future.

Basically, the development of online gambling in Asia started when the first Asian online casino was introduced in year 2000. However, a series of dilemmas have been encountered before the Asians achieved a fully-developed market. This is probably because some professionals in the industry is heavily restricting the implementation of the said concept. But this didn’t make the Asians hopes down. They even strengthened their aim to make online gambling a regulated activity to prove the government that prohibiting their plans will make no good at all.

As online casinos brought more interest to Asian people, a few casino games were being offered as an online game. Like in China wherein their 4,000 year old card game, Mahjong, is now being played in some online casino sites. And although internet gambling is not fully legalized, Chinese Mahjong players can’t help themselves from entering in sites that offer this ancient game. Moreover, another Asian country that is hardly benefiting from online casino gambling is Japan. Japan is currently under an economical crisis. As supported by the Liberal Democratic Party, the country is looking for effective ways on how to lessen their financial problems. And as a result their government is expecting online casino operators to help them in this dilemma.

Many Asian countries today are tending to adopt a Western theme for their areas. In fact, Philippines and Macau are being called as the ‘Oriental Monte Carlos’ and ‘Little Vegas’.

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Asian Gambling Resorts

The continent is studded with the casino destinations. It can be called the oriental gambling or the eastern gambling extravaganza. The most happening spots for gamblers can be found all over the continent of Asia. The legalization of gambling in most of the Asian and specially the South-East Asian countries had given a spurt to the industry in this part of the world. Malaysia, Indonesia, Laos, Singapore, India etc. all have superb possibilities for gambling and they are coming up with gambling destination along with all the works.

Gambling might have taken up slow on the Asian grounds because of its importance as a tourist destination. But the answer too lies in the problem. Tourism-Gambling. The hot destination for national and especially international tourists in India is Goa. It offers fabulous outings and exotic beaches to the sun lovers. It is fast coming up with full service casinos and the main attraction is the floating casinos that take the gamblers away in to the sea.

Singapore had not given legal sanction to gambling u till 2005. But looking at the trends in other Asian countries it decided to. The tourist inflow in Singapore is very high and as a shopping destination it attracts people from all over the world. The casinos will now be mushrooming all over the place and the tourists as well as the locals can enjoy the fun betting. Singapore can be called to have adopted a very competent and open policy towards gambling. They are improvising on the gambling services in order to compete with best in the business.

Although Chinese people are mad about gambling, but the practice is completely illegal in china. Having a communist regimen the greater good was seen in not letting the poor into this social vice. However they are into games of chance and they have made popular these games throughout the world. It remains to be seen whether they are ever going to adopt gambling in all its vigor and glory.

The influence of the oriental culture can also be seen on the games that are played in the casinos of Asia. Apart from the usual games like poker, blackjack, lotto etc. there are indigenous games that are played in the casinos of Asia. For example there is “PaiGow” which in Cantonese means nine. This is a very difficult game to play and understand. It is commonly played at the casinos of South East Asia. The use of tiles instead of cards is very common in Asia. For example the traditional gamble of china ‘Maha Jong’ requires a player to assemble the like pairs of tiles to score over the other. Instead of the illegality of gambling in China, it is played throughout China.

Then there is ‘Sic Bo’ which is a mixture of roulette and dice game. Thus it is simpler and thus followed by more people. Asians are thus coming up with fantastic destinations and offers for the traveling gamblers. It is yet to compete with the Las Vegas clubs but the owners of such establishments too are heading towards the more lucrative and virgin markets of Asia. Soon enough the Asians will see the gambling industry loom large.