The Asian market has long been considered too difficult or too risky for listed companies but skill games could provide a legitimate way in.
There are untold numbers of companies making fortunes from online gaming in Asia. If you have a look through the licensee lists of the Isle of Man or the Philippines you will see operators such as Bodog, Dafabet, SBObet, 188bet, Fun88 and several hundred other brand variations featuring the lucky number eight.
All of them will be making a small fortune, but notable for their absence are signs of any of Europe’s dominant listed gambling businesses. Betsson tried to explore opportunities in China with little success and Ladbrokes has a joint venture with Hong Kong-based lottery company AGTech. Five years ago, Sportech signed a joint venture agreement with India’s largest lottery provider Playwin, a subsidiary of the multi-billion-dollar Indian conglomerate Essel Group, which owns a selection of the country’s leading entertainment, technology and media companies.
Nothing much came from any of the ventures. Meanwhile, the Chinese government vacillated between promises of new licences for mobile and internet lottery sales, and crackdowns on iGaming sites. Most were scared off by the vagaries of a market which was far too grey for the faint-hearted. However, there are signs that both India and China could turn into legitimate gaming markets.