Laos Considers Shifting Towards Online Gambling

Laos Considers Shifting Towards Online Gambling

The pandemic has been a time to stop and think about whether the traditional land-based gaming model works. Most have decided in favor, but this has not come without a shift of attitude towards the interactive gambling landscape. Largely seen as a good boost to the economy, online casinos are no longer the taboo they once were in even the most conservative jurisdictions. Even Laos is toying with the idea of introducing online casinos that are roughly modeled after the Philippine Offshore Gaming Operator.

Laos Deliberates Adding Online Casinos

The country wants to regulate online gambling and build a model that is very similar to those of POGOs, enabling the government to monitor and levy gambling revenue as well as pass laws that protect consumers. Whether this happens will depend on how confident Laos is about the move.

The government is presently deliberating on passing rules that will create a framework that enables companies to apply for licenses. The licensing process should happen in two groups – those of master licenses and those of sub-licenses, emulating Curacao’s model. Laos has been mostly relying on its brick-and-mortar business, but this is changing now, as the country has to deal with the fallout of the COVID-19 pandemic which has impacted tourism revenue and the gambling industry.

Since Laos only operated brick-and-mortar properties, it has been cut off completely from this revenue, impacting public finances negatively. Meanwhile, illegal gambling operations online proliferated, further depriving the central government of taxable revenue. Essentially, the shift towards online gambling is a realization of the fact that enforcing a ban on the activity, especially in force major situations like during a global pandemic that forces everything on shutdown is very hard and costs the government millions.

The Philippines has been cited as a good local example as the country has been able to license its online gambling businesses and collect additional revenue as it did so. While the country had to give up on e-sabong due to rising crime associated with the activity, the Philippines as a whole remained committed to online gambling.

POGOs Often Criticized by Chinese Authorities

While not everyone is happy with the Philippines model, it’s one that works. China has tried shutting POGOs and other gambling websites down, as Beijing authorities accused the country of deliberately targeting Chinese citizens. But Laos is even more ambitious about this move.

The country wants to not just model its gambling model on POGOs but become a direct competitor as it seeks to get some of the market shares. The Laos Offshore Gaming Authority (LOGA) has been set up to help the country navigate this promising market. Still, the government has offered no further detail or insight into what the regulated online gambling market would look like.

Author: Ian Douglas