Most modern gambling experiences are based on games that have been around for hundreds of years. Indeed, historians now believe that in many regions of the world games and betting have always formed part of popular culture.
In Asia gambling, luck and superstition have long been important parts of everyday life. From lucky cat symbols to betting at funerals, the eastern cultures often have gambling and luck at their heart in a way that is often unthinkable in the west.
In China for example, there is evidence of board games being played for thousands of years. Historians have found sets of dice too, dating back at least 5000 years.
Today’s games like mah-jong and lotteries are thought to be the modern versions of some of these ancient entertainments.
Ancient Indian histories mention gambling games stretching back centuries too.
Japanese gaming and dice playing has a long and well-documented history. The seventh-century Emperor Temmu was a well-known dice player for example.
Yet in Asia mainstream gambling, like going to a bricks-and-mortar casino to place bets, is less accepted. The legislation has sometimes been very strict about controlling large gambling operations.
Social gambling and judgements based on lucky superstitions are much more common however. In the west gambling is less a part of normal social life – more an entertaining pastime.
Westerners expect to go to a sports betting venue, bingo hall or gaming casino to indulge in gambling. In contrast, in the East it’s not uncommon to see bets placed during funerals, weddings and festivals.
Asians often believe that good fortune is created in celebrations and happy social gatherings. This is part of the common belief in lucky numbers, colours and symbols.
Land-based casinos are gradually gaining strong footholds in some parts of Asia however. Macau has become an eastern rival to Las Vegas with more than 40 casinos.
Hong Kong meanwhile allows cruise ships to operate gaming licenses in its waters. This industry has become very successful for the island.
India’s casino world is growing too, now many casino operators offer casino games online in India. The gambling centres of Goa, Daman and Diu are thriving.
Legislation defining poker as a game of skill not chance means that access to the game is freely available over most of the subcontinent.
Attitudes vary across Asia however. South Korea restricts all gambling to a few casinos that can only serve foreigners.
Online casinos are altering the legal landscape. After all, a determined player can find somewhere to play regardless of the local restrictions.
Gamers have found it easy to use VPN systems to gamble anonymously online, anywhere in the world. It means local authorities can’t tell whether local players are using gaming sites.
At the same time other authorities have permitted and regulated the online casino industry. They have found that the taxes bring huge revenues.
The gaming regulations also permit authorities to ensure casinos are properly run and offer a safe and secure environment for entertainment.
Luck certainly plays a bit part in the Asian mindset. Many cultures involve lucky animals or days or colours.
So it’s not surprising that Asian-themed online slot games are being designed featuring all the eastern superstitions.
The makers hope to lure customers using features like dragons, tigers, gold and jade. Themes of wealth and good fortune are common too.
Despite this backdrop of gaming over the centuries, India’s contemporary gambling scene is varied. Three states have legal casinos, others ban them.
Some activities, like lotteries and horse betting, are often permitted. Online gaming is a more complex area.
Again some states have made laws preventing it but there have been no cases of any Indians being prosecuted for it – despite offshore online casinos apparently being very popular.
Much of India’s gambling world has been regulated by a vague 155-year-old law so there have been recent moves to update and clarify the legislation. Industry experts expect the laws to be clarified and states to be given more control over their regional rules.
In the USA the situation is broadly similar. There are vague laws controlling the national situation, but many rules are out-dated.
This has led to a variety of gaming cultures across the country.
Some states, like Nevada and Louisiana, allow casinos. Others like Hawaii and Utah, don’t.
State-run lotteries exist in almost every state while native American land can be used for casinos if the tribe agrees.
It means that the USA is a patchwork of different rules about sports betting and casino games, on and offline gaming, and state versus private lotteries.
What is the future?
Industry experts expect the laws to be gradually standardised. Not only is there a demand from local populations, authorities are find that regulating the industry is a public service and that the tax revenue generated can seriously boost public spending.
Overall, gaming is a popular pastime in both the east and the west. Its roots go far back into history in both areas – perhaps more in Asia.
Throughout history it has faced restrictions that come and go with various mood swings by the authorities. Gambling has persisted throughout.
The present situation is fluid. The popularity of online gambling is soaring.
It is likely that increasing liberal attitudes and the enthusiasm of online gamers will press the authorities to relax restrictions.
And once they discover how much good they can do with the tax revenues accrued, this process is likely to accelerate – in both the east and west.