What is an Asian bookmaker?
Let us begin with some history. The Asian continent is not only a vast piece of land, but also a densely populated one. And Asians, not unlike people from other continents, love to gamble. Those two facts combined have made Asia the largest betting market there is. According to basic economic law, huge demand soon creates the corresponding supply, and so most of the largest betting operators were started in Asia, with many of them continuing to operate until today.
The Chinese market
Many consider gambling a vice and a net negative for a society. Joseph Buchdahl has done a great deal exposing the hypocrisy of this point of view, nevertheless it remains a widely held one across people from different social backgrounds and cultures. Therefore, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that a highly concervative and authoritarian government such as the Chinese one, has made gambling illegal in China. The Chinese Communist Party outlawed gambling in 1949 shortly after seizing power and has kept the gambling ban in place until today.
The huge Chinese population, a large part of which would like to place a bet without having the means to do so, is a powerful economic force which would shape the gambling market for many years to come. This force has only grown stronger with the boom of the Chinese economy from the last decades.
You might have heard about the island of Macau, which generates about seven times the gambling revenue of Las Vegas. Many of us are used to thinking of Vegas as the gambling capital of the world, but those figures clearly show that the title belongs to Macau. How did the island of Macau come to earn this prize?
Macau is a Chinese territory with a special administrative status. In plain English, that means Macau gets to have different laws in certain areas as compared to mainland China. There is one crucial legal difference, which made Macau the gambling mecca it is today: Macau is the only one of two Chinese territories where gambling is legal. Not only that, but unlike many other jurisdictions, Macau has declared gambling winnings tax-free. Once you know those two simple facts, it is easy to understand how Macau attracts such gambling revenue. With its special status, Macau has become a massive cluster of gambling business entities and the number one spot of gambling activity.
While Macau has historically specialized in casino and card gaming, another Chinese territory with a special administrative status, Hong Kong, has a rich history in horse betting. If you are familiar with the marvelous story of Bill Benter, the man who cracked horse racing and became one of the richest gamblers in the world in the process, you would have heard of an entity called the Hong Kong Jockey Club (HKJC).
An institution 137 years old, the HKJC has a state-granted monopoly on horse racing and sports betting. This privileged status has granted HKJC the ability to generate a gambling revenue equivalent of $35.9 billion in 2021. To get a sense of perspective, that is almost 2.5 times the $14.9 billion the entire state of Nevada generated during the same period.
Macau and Hong Kong weren’t the only beneficiaries of the Chinese gamblilng prohibition, despite remaining the biggest ones. There is a long lasting tradition of Chinese gambling tourism in various other countries in Chinese proximity such as the Philippines, Malaysia and others.
The prohibition regime has created various gambling hot spots and the corresponding business entities turning around huge amounts of gambling money. Doing business on a large scale for a long amount of time has made these entities very good at what they do.
Clearly, the cost of a pricing mistake for a bookmaker rises in proportion to the total value of bets the bookmaker is willing to accept at any given point in time. Therefore, bookmakers who are willing to take large amounts of gambling revenue rarely make such mistakes. This dynamic has helped make the Asian bookmakers who have historically accommodated the flow of Chinese betting money the most proficient in the world. They are ready to take huge bets on any event and are able to price the event’s outcomes with great precision.
Those bookmakers became known as the Asians. There is a great variety of Asian bookmakers, but BetISN or SboBet are two examples that come to mind.
The Asian bookmakers are highly respected in the betting industry for the reasons outlined above. They are also often quoted as a positive example of conducting betting business as compared to the European bookmaker for example. The latter is rather focused on improving its profit margin by attracting square money and chasing away the rest, than on increasing revenue by locking in the sharp high-roller. As a result of this, when a price disparity between a European and an Asian bookmaker occurs, it is usually (if not always) the Asian one, which is offering the more accurate pricing. An important fact which serves as a money maker in sure betting and value betting – two strategies offered to the punter as an out-of-the-box solution by RebelBetting since many years already.
You would have seen by now that the terms “Asian” and “European”, as they apply to bookmakers in a gambling context, do not strictly refer to the geography but rather to the business model of the given bookmaker. It is the case that the one (market-maker) and the other (square money chaser) business model is the predominant one in Asia and in Europe respectively, which gives those business models their descriptions in the betting jargon.
The USA and the offshore market
But what about the others? There are various other areas in the world with a big betting market and a unique betting landscape. Clearly, the USA comes to mind. As the biggest economy in the world, you can never leave the USA out of the discussion, when it comes to the global betting industry. The USA is also a huge betting market and one which was very restricted for a long time. Sports Betting was illegal in the United States as per a federal law from 1992, which granted an exception for Nevada, the home state of Las Vegas. This was probably the main reason for the tremendous growth of the gambling industry in Las Vegas in the last decades. Sounds familiar?
The parallels to China don’t stop here. This betting prohibition led to the development of a huge offshore industry with bookmakers operating from countries close to the USA, which were almost exclusively targeting the US betting revenue. Many of them were located in the Caribbean and created a significant customer base in the USA, to which they are providing betting services on a large scale continuously until now.
Perhaps the most renowned Caribbean bookie out there, Pinnacle, is headquartered in Curacao and is one of the largest providers on the offshore market. You might see Pinnacle mixed in with the Asians or see people talking about “Pinnacle and the Asians” or even referring to the “Caribbeans” or the “offshore bookmakers” as a separate group. At the end of the day, Pinnacle is representing a group of bookmakers that were established in a completely different geographical area but have operated in a very similar context as the Asians and as a result have developed a very similar business model. Consequently, the offshore bookies just like the Asians accept higher stake bets, don’t limit winning players and are capable of calculating accurate odds on any event. I like to call this whole bunch market making bookmakers or sharp bookmakers to avoid confusion, but the two groups do get frequently mixed up due to their similarities.
The 1992 law prohibiting sports betting in the United States was overturned in 2018, creating a new dynamic where each state could set its own rules regarding the legality of sports betting. In turn sports betting became legal in a large number of states and a lot of new bookmakers started popping up on shore, some of which have meanwhile grown pretty big (DraftKings being a notable example).
However, many of those onshore bookies still struggle to compete with the old offshore players due to the superior product of the offshore bookmaker – high betting limits with no restrictions. Therefore the US market has become a battleground for the two business models – the Asian and the European one mentioned above. For now, the European model is the predominant one onshore, but a large number of US gamblers prefer to continue to play offshore. Specific and accurate numbers are hard to come by for obvious reasons, so it is too early to declare a winner at this point. Good thing is – RebelBetting services include all the top US bookmakers, including off shore ones.
Drawbacks of betting with an Asian
Admittedly, the presentation of the two business models above was a bit one-sided. If the Asian model is so great for the punter, why does the European one thrive in so many countries?
There are a few things the Europeans offer that you will rarely or never see with an Asian. Given that the Europeans are after the square money, they will invest heavily in marketing in order to attract those. This means they would often offer registration or top-up bonuses to the punter that are not available to the Asians. With the likes of bet365, WilliamHill or Ladbrokes, you can easily increase your starting capital by making use of the different bonuses they provide. This is something you normally can’t do with Asians.
Furthermore, due to the fact that the prices of the European bookmakers are less sharp, it will be easier to beat those and to turn a profit with such bookmakers for the regular punter. More on the how below, but suffice to say it is way easier to have an account “in the green” with an European bookmaker than with an Asian one. Knowing how sharp the prices of an Asian are, you need to be a real wizard of the betting markets in order to beat one of those.