As the clock winds down on 2023, Spectrum Gaming Group gives its take on the main issues that regulators, operators and suppliers will need to consider as they make plans for the year ahead.
In co-operation with Inside Asian Gaming, Spectrum Gaming Group has released its annual list of the Top 10 International Trends in Gaming. These are the most significant issues that regulators, operators and suppliers need to consider as they make plans for the coming year. Spectrum released its Top 10 US Trends list last month, continuing an annual series that began in 2005.
Spectrum has long focused on the future of gaming in international markets. The company has completed engagements in 49 countries on six continents, with clients that include national and regional governments, gaming companies of all sizes, suppliers, lotteries, financial institutions, developers and other gaming-related entities.
Spectrum’s Top 10 International Trends list (ordered alphabetically), compiled with input from the firm’s global experts, represents both the opportunities and challenges that will be most impactful to revenue, profitability and public policy.
1. COMMONWEALTH OF THE NORTHERN MARIANA ISLANDS
The long nightmare that has been the IPI project in Saipan will come to an end when the CNMI Casino Control Commission revokes its gaming license.
Given national and prefecture approvals, the MGM/ORIX Integrated Resort in Osaka will proceed with preparatory work for the Yumeshima site.
3. JUNKET PLAY
As international travel from China returns apace, the junket business will likely reform and revitalize across Southeast Asia, especially in countries such as Vietnam, Cambodia and the Philippines.
PAGCOR will take concrete steps in implementing the long-sought goal of privatizing its Casino Filipino-brand casinos, thus evolving into a regulatory agency. After a long struggle, the Philippines hopes to be removed from the Financial Action Task Force’s “grey” list of money-laundering countries due to a number of steps being taken by the Marcos Administration to bolster its anti-money laundering (AML) regime. This ultimately will depend on real reform to the regulatory process relating to existing casinos and POGOs and the governmental will to implement such reform.
5. SOUTHEAST ASIAN ONLINE GAMING
The provision of illegal online gaming and sports betting by operators based in Southeast Asia is being aggressively addressed by regulators across Asia. Recently, China stepped up its enforcement efforts against illegal online gaming operators targeting mainland Chinese players, with joint operations alongside law enforcement agencies from several Southeast Asian countries. Singapore has been at the forefront of this crackdown with the recent arrest of the leaders of a major online gaming syndicate. The amount of money earned by these illegal entities is enormous, as can be seen by the seizure by the Singapore authorities of assets totalling SG$2.4 billion (US$1.76 billion) from just the one group. Cambodia and the Philippines, two countries where online operators have traditionally been based, are also now tightening their own regulations. These efforts will accelerate in 2024.
6. SPORTS BETTING
Both the legal and grey varieties of sports betting will continue to grow across Asia as the appetite for this form of gaming shows no sign of diminishing.
Blockchain and the integration of virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR) technologies are revolutionizing the European betting and gambling markets. Spectrum expects Asia to follow suit soon. Blockchain is gaining prominence due to its ability to enhance security, transparency and trust in transactions. There remain regulatory hurdles to overcome in terms of Know Your Customer (KYC) requirements. However, this technology ensures fair play, enables instant and secure payments, and provides verifiable and auditable records of all betting and gambling activities. Operators are leveraging VR and AR to create immersive, interactive environments that attract and retain customers, providing them with a completely different and enjoyable gambling experience.
Following the establishment of a special committee in late October 2023 to explore the legalization of integrated entertainment venues featuring casinos, it is likely that Thailand will move forward with the legalization of casino gaming in 2024 and may even enact a gaming law.
9. UNITED ARAB EMIRATES
The UAE announced the legalization of gaming in 2023. The coming year will see the implementation of a regulatory process and the continued development of the Wynn property in Ras al Khaimah, as well as the announcement of development projects in additional emirates.
10. UNREGULATED GAMING
Given the vast sums involved and the societal harms caused, unregulated (grey/illegal) online gaming will come under increased scrutiny worldwide by international law enforcement agencies and by national governments. AML issues and ascertaining beneficial ownership of online gaming companies and their affiliates will be the focus in 2024. Efforts will be made to migrate this form of gaming to regulated entities that can be taxed to fund consumer protection and socially responsible gaming programs.
This Top 10 International Trends list was prepared by Spectrum Gaming Group executives and Spectrum Associate subject-matter experts.