Covid has sparked a surge in online gambling in unregulated markets in Asia, but competition is intense and if you don’t understand the culture you’ll waste money on player acquisition, says the igaming specialist Bhavesh Parthi.
Parthi, who is the managing director of Oppa Asia, the operator of Oppa Bet, said analysts estimated that online gambling had grown by around 84% in regulated markets. However, if you take the unregulated Asian markets, there was an increase of almost 300%.
“In the absence of earthly places to visit, more and more users have used Google search engines to find suitable online casinos, this is where SEO has played a much bigger and more important role. important than before Covid.”
From the operator’s perspective, more payment providers now cover ASEAN currencies, making it easier to provide services to Asian players.
Seven years ago the only option was online banking, but now there are many other online payment options, he said.
Asia is home to nearly two-thirds of the world’s population, and in many countries disposable income levels have grown rapidly. It is a prime target for online gambling companies, but so far most regional governments have been unwilling to exploit its potential through regulation and taxation.
The Philippines has licensed operators who want to offer their services to other countries since 2016 through Philippine Offshore Gambling Operators (POGO) licenses. From late 2020, it also began regulating online gambling targeting its domestic market to boost revenue from covid-affected vaults and eradicate the black market.
Parthi said there were signs that other countries in the region may be more receptive to online gambling regulation since Covid as they also seek to shore up their economies, but it is a process. slow.
“Other countries in Southeast Asia, during the pandemic, were particularly interested in online gambling because they saw it as a loss of income and taxes (which they should have noticed there So politicians in countries like Thailand and Malaysia have already started talking about legalizing and obviously taxing the online gambling industry within their borders,” he said.
However, these are still in their infancy stage, and Parthi said it could be five to 15 years before the plans materialize, if at all.
After years of trying to block online gambling, in late 2021 Malaysia’s deputy communications and multimedia minister, Datuk Zahidi Zainul Abidin, said the country was considering regulation and taxation instead. It is unclear how much progress has been made.
Thailand has set up a committee to discuss legalizing land-based casinos to boost its tourism industry. However, some political groups have urged the government to include online as well.
Parthi, whose company mainly focuses on Southeast Asia, India and Thailand, said progress was better in India, where skill-based gambling is protected by the Supreme Court, with some recent steps to establish a central regulatory framework.
“And let’s not talk about Japan, where they just can’t make up their minds,” he said. Although a gray market, Tokyo has not tended to actively crack down on the industry.
In terms of player tendencies, Parthi said he hasn’t seen too much change during Covid.
“Those who used to only play sports, now dabble a bit in slots, live casinos or arcade games, but their bet amounts in these other categories are still less than 15% of their bets. lifetime totals.”
Despite the seemingly growing pie, Parthi said competition is also fierce, meaning brand awareness, competitive and quality marketing campaigns and “superb” customer support will become increasingly important to acquiring. and retain players.
Additionally, companies need to understand the unique characteristics of each market and if you don’t do proper research, you risk wasting all the money spent on player acquisition.
He warns that player loyalty is low, so don’t expect high lifetime values.
“If you’re extremely lucky, you’ll have great players who love your brand and your games and will stick with you.”