Indonesia is one of the world’s more unusual nations. It stretches between two continents (Asia and Oceania), and rather than being one landmass, it is comprised of a chain of over 17,500 islands, divided into 34 different provinces. It enjoys healthy economic ties with the rest of Asia and a number of Western countries, but whilst many of the islands such as Bali and Jakarta are top tourist destinations, the country’s government has gone to great lengths to ban gambling in all its forms.
Whilst the rest of Asia is reportedly seeing huge growth in the area of online gambling, Indonesia is sadly bucking the trend by forcefully pushing in the opposite direction. This is despite a recent report from accountants PriceWaterhouseCoopers (PwC), who suggest that the gambling industry in Asia is set to skyrocket in value from $34 billion to nearly $80 billion over the next few years.
These figures haven't swayed the Indonesian ministries of Social Affairs, Religious Affairs and Communications & IT, though, who in 2012 announced that they were planning to implement new legislation designed to make all types of online gambling illegal. This was seen as a reaction to the large amount of money spent betting on the Euro 2012 football championship, with Indonesia’s Jakarta Post reporting that billions of Rupiah were being gambled online, and that some people were even selling their homes in order to take part.
The implementation of strict Islamic Law is another driving force behind the country's unusual gambling laws, with the vast majority of gambling strictly prohibited. Rather than target one root area of online gambling, though, the government’s plan is to pool their collective resources and attempt to tackle the problem on several fronts. A recent report revealed that the Communications and IT ministry would be looking at the issue from a technological standpoint, aiming to block Indonesian citizens from accessing online gambling websites altogether.
Whilst online gambling is definitively illegal in Indonesia, the government's blanket approach has resulted in a number of gaps and loopholes. Setting the government's bluster to one side, there is currently very little to stop Indonesian citizens from accessing sites that are hosted abroad. In fact, top online gambling sites including Mr Green casino are still allowing Indonesian registrations.
Despite the government's best efforts, online casinos are still incredibly popular throughout Indonesia, with both sports betting and table games attracting thousands of pounds a day in bets - this was highlighted by a news story in 2010, which revealed that two locally hosted online casinos were shut down after reportedly turning over $50,000 a day. In addition to a number of popular imported sports, badminton has become an incredibly popular choice in Indonesia, with the country's national team securing 13 victories in the biennial Thomas Cup.
Illicit local sportsbooks also offer odds on a variety of distinct Asian and Indonesian sports, including the ever-popular Pencak Silat - this is a distinctly Indonesian form of martial arts, and has become a mainstay of the biennial South East Asian Games. The style of kick volleyball known as Sepak Takraw is also a popular here, with thousands of spectators drawn to the sport every year.
Since announcing their plans in 2012, the Indonesian authorities have taken a number of steps towards a complete ban on online gambling, with a number of locally hosted sites shut down over the past few months. As the government has found out, though, policing the internet is much harder than it sounds, and blocking access to websites is notoriously difficult given the number of tools available that help to circumvent standard IP blocks. What's more, a number of the best online gambling sites are still allowing Indonesian registrations, with the likes of Mr Green casino giving them full access to their range of games.
At present, the only type of legal gambling in the country comes in the form of a licenced free lottery, but even this is coming under increasing pressure from the government. Until the authorities make a number of fundamental changes to their attitudes, international websites are set to be the only source of meaningful gambling for the nation's citizens.