The game of bingo originated in Europe in the 16th century, with the strongest roots pointing to Italy. It is widely thought that the game came from the South-Central European country from the Italian lottery, Il Gioco del Lotto d’Italia.
Bingo began to grow in popularity in the 1920s with the first modern day versions of the game appearing at carnivals and fairs. Though prizes in the UK weren’t actually legalised until 1961, following the Betting and Gaming Act 1960.
Bingo halls then began popping up everywhere from 1960, with at least one new hall opening each year all the way up until 2005. Over the past 15 years, attendances and interest in playing the game in-person have been on the decline, with online bingo being the much more popular choice among today’s generation.
Today, with advancements in technology, the game is available worldwide thanks to the internet. It is accessible from virtually anywhere thanks to mobile devices and WiFi. Bingo companies can promote their services to players across the world provided they have licenses in those countries.
For example, 888ladies.com has licenses all across the world. They predominantly operate in a number of European countries and American states but continue to grow in the Asian market too.
The games themselves can be played from anywhere as long as you have a WiFi connection and are of the legal age limit in your country. This means you can help chew the time of travel on public transport or waiting in queues with a couple of spins.
NetEnt, GVC, 888, Ladbrokes Coral Group, Fortuna Entertainment and Playtech are the largest vendors in the Asia Pacific Online Bingo Games market.
Casinos and gambling in general are hugely popular in Asia – Macau is generally known as the “gambling capital of the world” and the “Monte Carlo of the East” for example.
It is estimated that gambling tourism makes up nearly 50% of the country’s revenue. Macau has been on top since overtaking the Las Vegas Strip in gambling revenues back in 2007. The country doesn’t actually license online gaming either. There are a total of 41 physical casinos in the country, with the biggest being The Venetian Macao. 24 casinos are located on the Macau Peninsula and 17 on Taipa Island. The main casino operators are SJM Holdings, Galaxy Entertainment and Las Vegas Sands
Today, the online bingo games market is segmented by countries: Bangladesh, China, India, Indonesia, Japan, Malaysia, Philippines, Singapore, South Korea, Sri Lanka, Thailand and Vietnam.
Japan is an interesting one in particular. Whereas, in most countries around the world, bingo was popular before the internet was easily accessible, and in some cases, even invented. Japan was a late adopter. Popularity has only come about in recent years following the launches and rise of online casinos.
Recent changes in the Japanese gambling laws and cutting-edge technology have seen the residents turning to online bingo more and more these days. Incredibly, the Land of the Rising Sun is now the world’s second biggest market for online bingo games. The 75-ball variant being the most popular.
Japan had notably been strict when it came to gambling laws in the past. These laws have been eased in recent years due to pressure on the government and the belief that legalising bingo and other casino games will boost tourism in the country.
As of November 2020, there are a number of forms of gambling that are still banned in Japan. However, since 2018, casino operators have been competing against each other for three legal licenses to operate a large, integrated casino resort in the cities of Osaka, Tokyo, and Yokohama. These would allow the country to start competing with their neighbouring countries for gambling tourism.
South Korea’s casino business was worth $2.5 million heading into 2020 prior to enforced closures and international travel restrictions. Kangwon Land Casino is located at the High1 Ski and Golf Resort in Sapuk-eup and is by far the largest casino in South Korea, accounting for nearly half of the total gambling revenue each year in the country.
More recently, the fully integrated resort Jeju Shinhwa World, located on Jeju Island, opened to foreigners. The resort has a casino, multiple theme parks and hotels and was opened in April 2017. Casinos are opened only to foreigners due to South Korean law.
Bingo, Blackjack, Baccarat, Roulette and Slot Machines are all popular here, with the age limit being 19 and upwards.
As well as casinos, sports betting is also popular in Asia. There was an explosion of licensed sports betting turnover during the 2018 FIFA World Cup, contributing to about one-third of the annual $42.6bn turnover that year. Football, being the most popular sport in the world, attracts a lot of punters from every country where betting is legalised.
Football betting is notably popular in the countries of Japan and Hong Kong too. The sport has been growing in Asia since South Korea and Japan hosted the 2002 FIFA World Cup, whilst the Chinese Super League is seen a growth in interest over the past decade or so following continued big-name signings.
International stars Didier Drogba, Carlos Tevez, Nicolas Anelka, Paulinho, Hulk, Alexandre Pato, Marouane Fellaini, Ricardo Carvalho and Oscar have all played in China’s top football division over the past decade. Guangzhou Evergrande have been the biggest beneficaries, winning the league title eight times over the past 10 seasons.
Where next for bingo in Asia? One has to assume that with the internet boom of the past two decade and the continued improvements in both availability and technology, that the game will only continue to expand in popularity even further over the next decade or two.
This has certainly been the case in Europe over the past 15 years, where online bingo has become much more popular than the traditional game played in bingo halls.