Simon’s Guide to Casinos and Gambling in Korea (South)

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This is a cityscape of Seoul, capital of North Korea. This is the city centre at night. Most Korean casinos are located in the city centre,  and many can be seen on this picture.

Gambling in Korea

 

The general stance on gambling of the South Korean authorities could be summarised as the following: all forms of gambling in Korea are prohibited, unless they are expressly permitted by a specific legislation.

The relevant regulatory bodies and their respective regulated gambling activities are as follows:

  • the Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism (the “MCST”) regulates the South Korean casino industry, motorboat racing, cycle racing and sports promotion betting tickets (e.g., Sports Toto),
  • the Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs (the “MAFRA”) regulates horse racing and traditional bullfighting,
  • the Ministry of Strategy and Finance (the “MOSF”) regulates lottery businesses.

These are the only forms of legal gambling in South Korea. They are all specifically permitted in legislative pieces. For instance, casino gambling is made legal mainly under the Tourism Promotion Act, lottery is permitted by the Lottery Tickets and Lottery Fund Act and betting on horse racing is legalised by the Korean Racing Authority Act.

However, South Korean casinos are only available for foreignerslocal residents are only allowed in one South Korean casino, Gangwonland, for which the restriction against the entrance of local residents is relaxed pursuant to the Special Act on Support of Development of Abandoned Mine Areas.

Online gambling is strictly prohibited under South Korean law. The reason for this is that South Korean laws do not make a distinction between land based and online gambling. According to Article 247 of the Criminal Code, anyone conducting illegal gambling in South Korea is subject to criminal prosecution and faces charges of up to 5 years in prison or KRW 30 million (approx. $26,000). This clause is pertinent to online gambling operations as well. Only online sales of lottery tickets is specifically permitted.

Individual players, if caught, are prosecuted as well. According to Article 246 of the Criminal Code, a South Korean person, who gambles using the services of unlicensed operators (online and offline alike) is punishable by a fine of up to KRW 5 million ($4,370) or a minor fine, but “gambling which is just for momentary pleasure is exempted”. This clause basically decriminalises small scale, recreational gambling. Habitual gamblers, on the other hand, face penalties of up to three years in prison or a fine of up to KRW 20 million ($17,480)*.
/What constitutes habitual gambling is not explained in the law./

Although, it is not possible to widely enforce an online gambling ban on the level of individuals, Korean Authorities made it clear, that online gamblers in the country can face penalties if caught. Recently, a number of South Korean professional athletes were charged with online betting (and also alleged match fixing) and were questioned by the police about their online gambling habits**.

Internet censoring in South Korea is described as ‘pervasive’. It is reported, that sites of foreign online gambling operators are also being blocked by ISPs in the country.

There are also rumors of financial institutions blocking transactions to and from online casinos – mostly because this is the case in China – , however none of official sources or laws mention this anywhere.

 

*Source: ICLG Report: Korea – Gambling 2015

**Source: More South Korean Athletes in Trouble for Gambling

 

 

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Summary:

 

 

Casino gambling in South Korea

 

Online casino gambling in South Korea: illegal, players are prosecuted if caught

 

Land based casino gambling in Korea is legal and regulated under the Tourism Promotion Act, although only one casino in Korea is permitted to allow local residents to enter, the aforementioned Gangwonland. There are currently 14 land land based casinos in Korea listed on google maps, although this is only a minimum figure, as probably not every casino in Korea is listed on Google Maps.

All forms of online gambling in Korea are prohibited and criminalised. However, the legislation is phrased in a way to basically exempt small scale recreational gamblers, or only imposes a minor fine on them. Also, online gambling bans in general, are next to impossible to be enforced in any country.

 

 

 

Bingo in South Korea

 

Online bingo in South Korea: illegal, players are prosecuted if caught

 

None of the land based casinos in Korea appear to operate bingo halls. Outside these licensed venues bingo, as all other forms of gambling is Korea, is illegal. The national lottery also does not offer bingo games to its players.

All forms of online gambling in Korea are prohibited unless specifically made legal, this applies to online bingo. This makes online bingo illegal in South Korea.
The government is reported to block several foreign online gambling sites – although it’s unknown, whether their blacklist also includes online bingo sites.

It is impossible for any state to widely enforce online gambling bans on the level of individual players, and the South Korean legislations makes it clear that it does not wish to either, therefore small scale online gamblers in the country are not realistically in any danger from the authorities.

 

 

 

Poker in South Korea

 

Online poker in South Korea: illegal, players are prosecuted if caught

 

Land based poker is legal and licensed in South Korea, although poker playing is limited to the licensed casinos. As a sign of the easing of gambling restrictions in the country, this year, one of the events of the annual Asia Pacific Poker Tour was held in the Korea’s capital, Seoul, in the Paradise Walkerhill Casino. The event was funded by Poker Stars, one of the biggest international online poker platforms in the world.

Online poker, on the other hand is strictly prohibited, just like many other forms of online gambling in Korea. The South Korean government does not issue licenses to operators and professional players could, theoretically, face prosecution. However, small scale gamblers are basically exempt from the prohibition.

 

 

Sports betting in South Korea

 

Online sports betting in South Korea: the only legal forms of sports betting are the state backed Sports Toto and Proto, there is also legal horse race betting offered by the Korea Racing Authority, none of these have online platforms, players of foreign online bookmakers are prosecuted if caught, but that seldom happens

 

In Korea, the legal sports betting options are limited to games offered by the state-backed company Sports Toto and the horse race betting conducted by the Korea Racing Authority.

Sports Toto offers two sports betting games: Sports Toto and Proto, with the first being pari-mutuel betting and the second fixed odds. Both games can be played in electronic terminals, betting shops and convenience stores around the country, but they do not have online bookmakers. The profits generated by Sports Toto’s games go to the Korea Sports Promotion Foundation, the goal of which is to popularise sports amongst the Korean populace.

All legal horse race betting in the country is conducted by the Korea Racing Authority. Wagers can be made on the three thoroughbred tracks around the country as well as the thirty OCBs (Off-Course Betting centres)*. However, the Korea Racing Authority does not offer any online sportsbooks.

Foreign online sportsbooks are illegal and players can face prosecution if caught. Recently, several Korean basketball players were charged with online betting and alleged match fixing.

The government also block access to some foreign online bookmakers. However, regular, small scale players placing bets with such sites from the safety of their homes are extremely unlikely to be prosecuted in Korea, or any other country for that matter (recreational, not professional, small scale gambling by private persons is not criminalized in Korea). Odds on major foreign online sports books are said to be far superior to the ones offered on the state backed betting games in Korea.

 

*Source: KRA official website: OCB centres

 

 

Lottery in South Korea

 

Online lottery in South Korea: legal, state monopoly, you can purchase lottery tickets online

 

The Korean Lottery Commission licenses one company, Nanum LOTTO Co. Ltd. to conduct lottery draws and sell printed, electronic and online lottery tickets in the country.

Nanum LOTTO Co. Ltd. is the only legal provider of lotteries in the country. It is unknown if individual Koreans playing on foreign online lotteries are prosecuted.

 

 

 

Bitcoin gambling in South Korea

 

Bitcoin gambling in South Korea: unknown / undetermined, safe to assume that it’s illegal, just as other forms of online gambling in Korea

 

South Korea is a country with a blossoming Bitcoin scene and authorities do not restrict the use of Bitcoin in the country.

A number of news pieces were published June last year about a South Korean Bitcoin gambling company, Satoshinori beta testing its products meant to cut the firm a piece of the estimated $49b East-Asian online gambling market (illegal included)*. The company would’ve operated under the same  assumption as many other Bitcoin casinos – namely, that as Bitcoin is not a currency, therefore Bitcoin gambling is legal, or at least not explicitly illegal, even in countries with laws otherwise prohibiting online gambling.

However, this is an assumption was proven wrong many times in many countries around the world in recent years. The fact, that the company has disappeared ever since its announcement last year seems to confirm suspicions, that they too are facing legal barriers. Online gambling bans are not this easy to circumvent, apparently.

However, it’s true, that South Korean gambling laws do not address Bitcoin gambling in specific, but than again, neither do they expressly ban online gambling – the ban is a general one, with its scope covering online operators as well. Therefore, it’s safe to assume, that Bitcoin gambling, in practice, is just as illegal in South Korea than any other forms of online gambling.

Although players might face charges if caught, recreational gamblers are basically exempt from the prohibition(see above).

 

*Source: Korean Bitcoin Gambling Site Seeks Asian Customers

 

 

Online gambling websites accepting players from South Korea

 

Although, online gambling is illegal in South Korea and players can, theoretically, face penalties if caught, many foreign platforms accept registrations from the country. Individual players are only prosecuted in extremely rare cases (I found only one reported case with the basketball players mentioned above, and they were only questioned). Nevertheless, if you decide to place bets online from South Korea be aware of the risks.

The following online casino and bookmakers accept players from online casinos.

 

bgo_casino_bonus_banner

BGO casino – accepting players from South Korea

Euro online casino

Casino Euro – accepting players from South Korea

32_red_online_casino

32 Red casino accepting players from South Korea

free_bet_32red_banner

32 Red online bookmaker, sports betting website – accepting players from South Korea

black_lotus_casino_bonus

Black Lotus casino accepting players from South Korea

 

 

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This page is part of Simon’s List – Legal Status of Online Gambling – a definitive guide to the legal status of all forms of online gambling activities in every country around the world.

 

Last updated: 2015. 10. 29.

Summary
Simon's Guide to Casinos & Gambling in Korea
Article Name
Simon's Guide to Casinos & Gambling in Korea
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This guide focuses on gambling, online gambling, casinos, sports betting, online lottery and Bitcoin gambling in south Korea.
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