Online Poker in Asia

Online poker is primed for growth in Asia owing to the region’s long gambling tradition and massive population. Like Europe, Asia is a complex market subject to a dizzying array of laws and attitudes that affect online gaming in different ways depending on where you go. There are many poker sites that would love to gain a foothold in the region and are currently accepting players from most Asian nations.

On this page, I have put together a list of the best Asian poker sites based on their ability to adequately serve players from the greatest number of countries. In addition to safety and quality, these sites are also ranked according to how well they cater to the various languages and currencies found across the region.

The gaming laws of your country will have the biggest impact on where you can play and how easy it is to get started. It’s quite common for Asian governments to have anti-online poker laws on the books but little actual enforcement. A limited number of countries attempt to censor the internet and prevent citizens from even accessing poker sites in the first place. So with that in mind, you can read on for a brief overview of the poker situation in each country.

China

With a population of 1.36 billion, China is a sort of holy grail for the world’s poker sites. The only problem is that the country is quite hostile to any form of online wagering outside of a limited number of lottery-type games with terrible odds. The Chinese government actively censors the internet and tries its best to make it difficult for players to visit offshore gaming sites.

China’s strong stance against poker hasn’t deterred some sites from pursuing the market anyways.  Some poker sites targeting Asian markets have been known to set up temporary domains to help players avoid the Great Firewall censorship system in addition to providing Chinese language software and accepting RMB deposits.

It is supposedly illegal to play online poker in China but enforcement doesn’t seem to be an issue. Many Chinese players play real money poker over the internet every day without any problems. This is by no means a guarantee, but you’ll probably be OK as long as you deal with respectable poker sites headquartered in other countries.

India

India is another major market that proves irresistible despite the questionable legality of online poker. The only law that could even be interpreted to apply to online gambling is the ancient Public Gambling Act of 1867. The government takes the stance that this law applies to online poker and does what it can to block citizens’ access to known poker sites.

Further complicating matters are a mess of individual state laws that may be contradictory to federal law. The states of Goa and Sikkim are home to a limited number of brick-and-mortar casinos, with Sikkim having attempted to legalize online gambling and issue licenses to operators. These efforts have met with all kinds of legal trouble but it is a move in the right direction.

Many online poker sites service players in India complete with full support of rupees and deposit methods that are readily available to Indian players. The legality of online poker is still somewhat of a debate, but millions of Indians do play online every day.

Indonesia

The Indonesian government is not a fan of poker online or offline. Strict anti-gambling laws promise severe punishments for people caught playing poker or hosting games for others. If you decide to play online poker in Indonesia, you should understand that the risk is not zero.

The good news is that from what I can tell, the vast majority of Indonesia’s anti-gambling efforts take place in the real world. Authorities make it a point to break up underground gambling games and dole out punishments to everyone involved. I have been unable to find any evidence that the government actively tracks down people who place a few bets over the internet.

Considering how harsh Indonesia treats people caught gambling, it’s probably safer to do your wagering online with poker sites hosted in other countries. Foreign websites are at no risk of being raided by Indonesian authorities and giving up your information. The most difficult challenge you’ll face is bypassing the country’s internet censorship program.

Bangladesh

As a predominantly Muslim nation, Bangladesh is staunchly anti-gambling. However, the law does make exceptions for certain games of skill. The only question is whether or not poker will ever be included in that list.

Bangladesh does not license or regulate online poker, but it also doesn’t go to great lengths to prevent people from playing at poker sites hosted in other nations. The end result is that a fair number of poker sites accept players from the country.

Japan

Japanese law criminalizes any form of wagering that isn’t expressly legal within the country. Unfortunately, online poker doesn’t make the cut. If gaming laws in Japan were actually enforced, people could even face fines for playing online poker.

The key word there is “if.” Japan does not actively pursue online poker players and many people play online every day without any problems. Most of the world’s big-name poker sites welcome Japanese customers and even have deposit methods in place specifically for yen transactions.

Philippines

The Philippines is one of the most poker-friendly nations in all of Asian. The Cagayan Special Economic Zone serves as Asia’s largest online gaming regulator and issues licenses to companies that would like to serve the Asian market. An increasing number of well-known poker sites are opting to apply for online betting licenses in the Philippines.

Interestingly, any site that is licensed in the Philippines is restricted from accepting wagers from Filipinos. Thus, some of the larger, international poker sites no longer accept Filipinos as they prepare for licensing in the country. There are no laws against playing online from the Philippines, but you’ll have to visit unlicensed foreign operators to join the games.

Vietnam

Vietnam is one of the many countries that try to restrict online poker but fail to do so. The law does consider online betting a crime, but enforcement is virtually nil. Anyone who wants to play poker for real money need only visit one of the many international sites that accept Vietnamese customers.

The government does have a blacklist of gambling and poker sites that local internet service providers are supposed to block. Circumventing internet filters is a simple matter of signing up for a VPN service. Some of today’s best poker players hail from Vietnam, so poker isn’t going away any time soon.

Thailand

Gambling laws in Thailand are badly outdated and make no mention of the internet. Authorities consider almost all forms of wagering illegal but it’s questionable as to whether or not it is legal to play online poker. What isn’t questionable is that people do it anyways.

Thai authorities do nothing to enforce anti-gambling laws over the internet. If you live in Thailand and want to play online poker, you can choose from a plethora of sites hosted by other countries where poker is legal, licensed and regulated.

Myanmar

The Republic of the Union of Myanmar has only recently shrugged off the shackles of its longstanding military dictatorship. The legality of online poker hasn’t even been addressed as the country is just barely getting started in the business of brick-and-mortar gambling.

With major political upheaval just a few years removed, information about the country’s laws is sparse. As far as I can tell, there are no laws against visiting foreign poker sites and playing for real money. However, I recommend you do your research and make sure you understand the law before you play.

South Korea

South Korea does not allow the operation of poker sites, but it also doesn’t try to stop citizens from playing online at foreign operators. For the most part, Korean wagering laws make no mention of online poker. Anyone living in South Korea need only visit one of the sites listed near the top of this page and sign up for an account.

The greatest challenge you’ll face is bypassing internet filtering programs that prevent access to known poker sites. The easiest way to do this is sign up for an account with a VPN service so you can visit the website and download the software. Once you have the poker software on your computer, you can forget the VPN and play like normal.

The best deposit options in South Korea are e-wallet services such as Neteller and Skrill. Both of those accept Koreans and will help you translate your won into one of the main currencies used at your poker site. It’s a little bit of a hassle getting everything set up at first, but it’s easy once you have the software and an e-wallet account.

Malaysia

Malaysia takes an odd approach to online gambling. There are two differnet sets of laws designed to apply to Muslims and everyone else. If you were born in Malaysia, you are considered a Muslim and may not gamble or play poker anywhere. If you’re not from Malaysia and do not follow Islam, you may visit a few of the country’s limited number of brick-and-mortar casinos.

Malaysian authorities are known to raid underground gambling houses in the real world but there are no indications that these actions ever extend to the internet. Most poker sites are comfortable accepting Malaysians and some sites even accept ringgit deposits.

Nepal

Nepal’s gambling laws do not mention online poker so this is yet another country in which there is no definitive answer to the legality question. I’ve read reports from poker players on discussion forums who say they’ve never had a problem accessing poker sites from Nepal.

The biggest issue you’re going to face is in finding reliable internet and power. Nepal suffers from major infrastructure problems to the point where random, extended blackouts are a part of life. If you’re able to find a semi-reliable internet and power connection, you’ll find plenty of poker sites that are willing to take your business.

North Korea

If you’re reading these words online, you’re probably not in North Korea and this section doesn’t apply to you. North Korea is home to the most repressive regime in the world and extends severe, life-threatening punishments to those who even access the internet at all.

Taiwan

Taiwan prohibits all forms of gambling other than the state lottery. Poker is grouped in with gambling and remains illegal both online and in the real world. Taiwanese authorities have been known to raid underground gambling sites and then prosecute both the operators and players.

However, there is a positive side to all this. Taiwan does not block access to foreign poker sites or monitor internet traffic to catch poker players. Your safest bet is to do business with offshore poker sites only, as those are at no risk of being targeted for legal action. I must warn you now that what I suggest is not technically legal so there is some risk. Proceed with caution.

Sri Lanka

Poker has seen a bit of a surge in recent years in Sri Lanka. This may be due to the India Poker Championship making recent stops in Sri Lanka and the country’s four casinos warming up to the idea of hosting actual brick-and-mortar games.

As far as online poker goes, it appears there are no laws that prohibit the activity. If you have a reliable internet connection, you should be good to go. There are no local poker sites so you’ll have to take your business to offshore operators such as those listed near the top of this page.

Cambodia

All forms of gambling and poker are supposed to be illegal in Cambodia with the exception of establishments that serve tourists only. In reality, gambling is widespread in Cambodia and there is certainly no enforcement of the prohibition on online poker. Just don’t try to start your own poker site and you should be fine.

Offenders do face the prospect of fines and imprisonment, but this isn’t even fully enforced in the real world. There are numerous unlicensed casinos near the country’s border areas that seem to operate with impunity. Online poker is low on the radar of Cambodian authorities.

Hong Kong

Hong Kong is very much against online poker with laws that impose fines and up to nine months in prison for those caught placing wagers over the internet. This is not the country to test your luck. Very few poker sites even accept registrations from people located in Hong Kong.

If you’re willing to take the risk (not advised), a few of the smaller, US-facing poker sites will take your business. You will find it challenging to fund your account and get paid, so I can’t think of many upsides for people in this part of the world.

Laos

Laos is a tough place to live for anyone interested in online poker. Gaming laws in Laos prohibit all forms of unauthorized wagering but enforcement is sporadic at best. The biggest challenge is in finding a poker site that accepts Laotians and provides deposit methods that work in the country.

You may find it easiest to deposit with a cash transfer service such as Western Union or simply initiate a bank wire if you have a larger amount to deposit. There aren’t any major poker sites that offer native support of Laotian kip so you will also have to deal with exchange fees when completing any deposits.

Singapore

In 2015, Singapore cracked down on online poker with the passage of the Remote Gambling Act. The new laws make it a crime to access offshore poker sites. The act also created the Gambling Regulatory Unit to filter the internet and prevent financial transactions to gaming sites.

It’s still unclear how far this legislation will go in monitoring the activities of online poker players. The smart thing would be to wait and see how this all works out before you play online.

Mongolia

Mongolian laws do not address online poker so it appears to be relatively safe to play online from within the country. There are no licensed operators in Mongolia so you’ll need to visit any of the many foreign poker sites that accept Mongolians.

The country is currently considering legalizing a limited number of brick-and-mortar casinos in an effort to attract business from nearby countries. Rumors have it that these casinos will be prohibited to citizens and only open to tourists.

Bhutan

Bhutan presents numerous problems for online poker players. Gaming laws are unclear in how they relate to online poker, but we do know the country prohibits citizens from placing wagers in the real world. It’s likely these laws also apply to internet poker, but it’s unclear if there is any actual prohibition.

Macau

Home to the largest gambling destination on the planet, Macau tightly regulates all forms of brick-and-mortar wagering. Internet poker isn’t addressed in any laws so I assume it’s safe to play online. It wouldn’t be a bad idea to get professional legal advice before you  play online.

Brunei

Brunei outlaws gambling and poker across the board even though the law doesn’t specifically address online poker. Authorities routinely raid underground gambling dens and dole out harsh financial and imprisonment punishments to those caught visiting underground casinos.

It is unclear if Brunei actively monitors internet usage to catch online poker players, but I wouldn’t recommend testing it. As an Islamic country, Brunei shows little mercy to those perceived to be breaking the law.

Maldives

Maldives is subject to Islamic rule and as such, all forms of poker and gambling are prohibited. A quick search on Google will show you that the authorities are always on the search for illegal gambling and make it a habit to raid underground casinos. I am unable to find any instances of people being arrested for playing poker online, but that doesn’t make it safe. It would be best to avoid online poker while visiting Maldives.