Korea is one of the Asian countries that is gaining popularity over the past few years, particularly among the younger generation. Thanks to the growing prominence of Korean pop culture, Korea has become an interesting country for many.
One of the greatest attraction in Korea is its gambling industry. Gambling for monetary or property gain is illegal under Chapter 23 of the Criminal Act of South Korea. Several amendments were made to the gambling law to accommodate the legalization of several betting activities in the country. In North Korea, locals are not allowed to gamble. Only tourists are legally permitted to gamble on a strictly regulated basis.
Article 246 of the Criminal Act states that any person caught engaging in any betting activity for the purpose of earning a profit is punishable by a fine of not exceeding five million won. Gambling activities for momentary pleasure are allowed. Those who are categorized as habitual gamblers can receive a prison sentence of up to three years or be required to pay a fine amounting to 20 million won. The said betting regulations are applicable to all Korean citizens regardless of where they play. The law applies even though the gambling activity is done outside the country’s borders and are strictly implemented to the dismay of many. Koreans face fines and prison sentences even if they engage in gambling activities in Macau or Las Vegas.
To date, it is legal to gamble on bicycle racing and horse racing and to bet on basketball, baseball, football, golf, volleyball, and Ssirum, traditional wrestling regarded as the national sport of the country. The locals can also try their luck in several lotteries.
Many locals from South Korea do not have ready access to casinos and poker rooms despite the country’s collection of brick-and-mortar casinos. The country has 30 land-based casinos and three horse racing tracks in the country. These casinos, plenty as it may seem, are only for the pleasure and enjoyment of tourists. Citizens have limited access to sports betting but the odds they get are not comparable to what they can benefit from if they gamble online. For this reason, online betting is popular amongst the locals.
Local gamblers do not have many gambling activities they can engage in. They are mostly limited to what is approved by the government. These legal gambling avenues are even operated or closely monitored by the different ministries of the government. While it is hard to monitor online gambling, officials are working hard to make sure that foreign betting sites undergo meticulous scrutiny. Even banks can block transactions tagged as related to online gambling.
South Koreans can place their bets on horse racing, bicycle racing, lotteries, and Toto sports betting. While the country has a whole lot of land-based casinos, locals are allowed to enter only one. They must be 18 years old to legally bet.
The South Korean government places a withholding tax of 22 percent to 30 percent on winnings from lotteries. All other gambling wins are non-taxable. The government, on the other hand, collect tax revenues from operators.
Betting on horse races is the longest form of legal gambling in South Korea. Administered by the Korean Racing Authority (KRA), locals can place bets in horse races through pari-mutuel betting. The maximum allowable bet is only ₩100,000 and only 16 percent of the pool is paid back to the winner. The odds are sadly not as good as most international races, though.
There are several kinds of lotteries in the country. The first legal lottery, the House Lotto, was introduced in 1969 and lasted for two decades. Korean Instant Lottery Scratch Cards were then introduced in 1990. At the start of the 20th century, the 6/45 lottery became the popular lottery in the country.
South Korea 6/45 Lottery is an online lottery that has 45 balls. Of these balls, seven are drawn and the lottery tickets allow bettors to only choose six numbers. The seventh number is drawn stands as an extra ball. The lottery is drawn once a week, every Saturday nights. One ticket costs ₩1,000. The government taxes lottery winnings with 22 percent tax for prizes of up to 50 million and 33 percent for winnings more than 50 million.
Another form of lottery that is becoming increasingly popular is the Bok-Kwon or the Pension 520 Lottery. Only introduced last July 2011, this lottery uses pre-printed tickets and is drawn every Wednesday. Bok-Kwon has fixed odds and the tax rate is only 22 percent regardless of the jackpot prize.
The legalization of bicycle racing took inspiration from Japan’s legal betting system. Unlike Japan, Koreans cannot do off-track betting. Bicycle racing became a legalized form of gambling to promote national sports, particularly among the younger generation. Foreigners are not very fond of betting on bicycle racing despite having better odds than horse racing. This is most probably because websites, programs, and betting slips are only available in Korean.
Koreans can legally bet on football, volleyball, basketball, baseball, golf, and Ssirum in two ways: Sports Toto or pari-mutuel betting and Sports Proto or fixed odds betting. In Sports Toto, the punters can place their bets into a pool. Half of the pooled bet accounts for operation costs, duty, and profit margins while the remaining half is paid to the winner of the bet.
In Sports Proto, the odds for each bet is expressed in decimal format. The winning bet pays stake x odds. For a stake of ₩70,000 on odds of 1.75 and win, the bettor will take home ₩122,500 and the profit is ₩52,500.
The country has casinos exclusive for tourists only. Expats and foreign visitors must show their passport before they are allowed entry. South Koreans, Vietnamese, and Nepalese are not allowed entry unless they are working there.
The region has one casino that locals can enter – the Kangwon Land Resort and Casino located in Jeongseongun County in the province of Gangwon-do. Koreans are not legally allowed to gamble for monetary gain but this casino became an approved gambling area since the province used to be a war-torn area. Having a casino was a way for the economy to recover and provide avenues for relaxation. The government thought that putting the casino in a hardly accessible location will discourage its working citizens to make a weekend or overnight trip. But they were wrong, as much as 10,000 Koreans visit the casino daily. Some even have to wait long hours to get a table. Groups of foreigners can reserve their table in advance.
When it comes to North Korea, a country known for having an extremely strict and autocratic government, gambling laws are no different from South Korea. Similarly, locals are prohibited from gambling. Tourists, on the other hand, are free to engage in any betting activities in the country. In fact, North Korea used to have several casinos owned by Chinese investors from Macau and Hong Kong. These casinos were an attempt by the government to bring in more Chinese gamblers since the said activity is illegal in China.
North Korea has one casino located in Pyongyang, the country’s capital city. In the early 1990s, there were two operational casinos in the country. One, still operational today, is in Pyongyang Casino and Yanggakdo Hotel located in Pyongyang and the other one in The Seaview Casino Hotel located in Rajin-Sonbong, close to the Chinese border. The huge popularity of gambling among affluent Chinese brought money to the country. But as more money flowed in, so did corruption. Several Chinese officials embezzled large sums of money, gambled, and lost all at the casino. This caused the closure of The Seaview Casino Hotel and subsequent restriction of crossing over to North Korea.
Online gambling is close to impossible in North Korea. The government strictly regulates internet access to average citizens. Those that can have access to the World Wide Web are the Kwangmyong. While they have access, the websites they can visit also undergo censorship. Interestingly, many online gambling websites are not blocked by the state-owned internet service protocol. But since online gambling is illegal and prosecution is real, it is not highly recommended. Expats visiting the country may find it best to gamble at the sole casino in Pyongyang.
North Koreans love sports as well. But sports betting is a subject better not discussed. It is illegal and those caught violating will face sanctions. Tourists can engage in sports betting since gambling is not illegal for foreigners but they would need good luck to find any bookies in the country. Online sports betting is something alien to them as well.