Emerging Markets in the Casino and Gaming Industry | Arabian Weekly


Gambling laws across the world can vary wildly from the liberal ones of France and the United Kingdom to the strict restrictions of Brunei and Indonesia.

Despite the significant revenue streams that are seen in some countries in Europe and the west, many other nations have refused to be drawn into legalizing gambling to the masses. However, things may be changing, and some emerging markets are opening up to the gaming industry.

One simple reason for this is the internet. Visiting a live casino online is simple, and the many games available can be played by anyone and anywhere. Therefore, gambling laws have become harder to control. Not every country is willing to fully legalize gambling though, but some new markets are appearing.

Which are the strictest countries for gambling?

These countries are particularly anti-gambling and especially for games of chance. Quite often, even in countries where gambling is allowed in certain states, such as India, there are still strict controls on games that are considered based on chance instead of skill.

These are the countries where great care should be taken if you are considering gambling, even as a tourist.

  • Brunei
  • China
  • North Korea
  • Indonesia
  • Japan
  • Cambodia
  • Qatar
  • Singapore
  • Lebanon

Brunei and Indonesia have particularly strict laws against gambling. In Brunei, the penalties for gaming in a public place can reach $10,000 and 6 months in prison. It is highly unlikely that this country will relax its gambling laws any time soon.

There is often strict gambling regulation in the Asia-Pacific region, and even popular tourist destinations such as Thailand are tough on gambling. Even a simple card game in the Land of Smiles could end up with you being arrested if the police believe you are gambling.

Will Dubai allow gambling soon?

Despite many countries keeping a tight grip on their gambling laws, there are some emerging new markets that the casino industry will be keen to invest in.

Of course, Dubai needs to be discussed as there have been repeated rumors of the emirate looking to emerge as more of a tourist destination. One way to appeal to more visitors is to allow casinos to be licensed in the UAE.

With horse racing being the only legitimate way to gamble, the opportunity to get in at the ground floor for casinos and sportsbooks is there. Except, perhaps it isn’t. The government has fully denied any rumors that gambling will be legalized.

However, with the smaller emirate, Ras Al Khaimah, announcing its intention to allow gambling, perhaps Dubai may follow. One thing is certain, casino operators Caesar’s Palace, and MGM are already investing in resorts, and they will be hoping to add casinos as soon as legally allowed.

Which other countries are looking at loosening gambling laws?

The increased revenue from tourism and gambling may ultimately prove alluring to the Dubai government, but that remains to be seen. Across the world, other markets are opening up as their laws become more liberal.


The United States relaxed its laws on sports betting a few years ago, and now about half the country allows some form of this activity. Surprisingly though, many states are digging their heels in, and at least two look like holding out forever. Hawaii and Idaho are resolute in their anti-gambling laws.


There have been many calls for a central law on gambling in India. Currently, there are just a handful of states where casinos and gambling are allowed. And, some states have gone as far as to try to ban skill-based games as well as games of chance.

It was alterations to state legislation such as this that have once again brought the subject of gambling laws to the front in India. It is difficult to determine which way the government will decide to go, but for the gaming industry, there are positive signs. At least one prominent minister has spoken about the financial benefits of easing the gambling laws in the country.


Over the last few years, this country has made constant changes to its gambling laws. This year, some more changes were made to the regulations surrounding electronic gaming machines.

Visitors can visit casinos and gamble in Vietnam, but the locals are more restricted. Currently, only two casinos are available to Vietnamese nationals, but this looks set to change as the gaming industry asks for more freedom to fight against the damage done by Covid.

Slovakia and Bulgaria

In recent times, both of these European countries have relaxed their laws surrounding online casinos and sports betting. Slovakia decided to offer licenses as a way to combat illegal operators, and control the activity. Bulgaria has similarly loosened the regulations for online casino operators and has seen a huge growth in this area.

It is known that online casinos grew during Covid, but the pandemic also damaged the land-based versions and hit in-person betting in general. Countries such as Slovakia, Vietnam, and Latin America including Brazil which has huge potential have seen the promise of relaxing laws for online and in-person gambling.

How do countries introduce gambling where it didn’t exist before?

Many countries that restrict gambling allow tourists to enjoy the activity but not the nationals. In the case of many SE Asian countries, there are casinos but access is only available to visitors from outside the country.

Very often, the initial way to introduce gambling is through a state or national lottery. Even the strictest countries often allow this form of betting.

Casino operators could also look at local games and pastimes to introduce. In Dubai, it seems that chess could be the next flashpoint for gambling. How casino operators can harness that will remain to be seen though.

Are there benefits for countries where they allow gambling?

The common arguments for allowing some forms of gambling are to take it out of the hands of illegal operators and to increase revenue.

Taxation of gambling can create millions for a country or an emirate’s infrastructure. This money can go directly into schools, hospitals, and public transport.

The online gambling market was $61.5 billion in 2021 and is only going to grow. Huge revenue and job opportunities lie in this industry. Of course, there will always be concerns with underage and problem gambling, and advertising, and licensing all need to be strictly monitored and controlled.

Yet, the possible benefits are starting to become clear to many emerging markets.


There is no doubt that some nations have decided to ease their restrictions on gambling. Very often this has been regarding online gaming. During Covid, many more people started to use online casinos, and it is almost impossible to control. So, it makes sense for nations to look at reaping some of the financial benefits.

Which countries and regions decide to let the big casino operators in will be interesting to see. It is unlikely that China will let casinos appear on the mainland, but other nations will, sooner rather than later.

Also published on Medium.

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