Gambling is without doubt one of the most popular pastimes on the planet. However with its potentially addictive nature and the social consequences that this may entail it has been deemed illegal in many countries around the world. As in most of Asia gambling in South Korea is, in principle, illegal. It states in the Criminal Act, Article 246 that anyone who gambles or bets for the purpose of gaining property shall be punished by a fine of up to 5 million Won. Article 247 prohibits the opening of a place for the use of gambling for a profit and sets a punishment of imprisonment for no more than 3 years or a fine of up to 20 million Won.
This law is not a blanket exclusion of gambling and, in Korea you, you can still gamble under restricted circumstances – an example being for the promotion of tourism. There has also been laws enacted allowing gambling in certain circumstances.
The laws vary for foreigners and Korean citizens. As it stands at the moment the Special Act on the Assistance to the Development of Abandoned Mine Areas allows the running of the only land based casino in Korea that Korean citizens may enter. It is located in Gangwon province, in an abandoned mining district, the remote countryside helping to further restrict access for Koreans.
For non-Korean citizens the Tourism Promotion Act offers permission for hotels to operate casinos that only foreign nationals are allowed to enter. Such casinos are currently running in Seoul, Incheon, Jeju Island and are heavily supervised by the Ministry of Culture and Tourism.
There are 2 lotteries open to Korean citizens the Lotto and the Toto ( a sports lottery). The operation of and selling of tickets are regulated under the Lottery Fund Act.
Horse racing and betting at the venues is permitted under the Korean Horse Affairs Association Act and comes under the jurisdiction of the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry.
Other race sports are also legal and regulated, these include cycling and motor boat racing although these both come under the jurisdiction of the Ministry of Culture and Tourism.
d. Online Gambling
This is currently a gray area as Korea does not have relevant laws for the specifics of online gambling. Arguments can be made for both sides – for example, the monetary transactions will be taking place outside of Korean jurisdiction so can in no way be subject to Korean law, hence it is very unlikely that your money will be seized by anyone. However the end user is still in Korea so may well be subject to the national laws that apply to general gambling. The National Police Agency has established the Criminal Activity Investigation Team to help control any potentially unlawful online activities, including gambling. This certainly implies that it would be ‘considered’ illegal; although at present no cases have been brought to test this.
e. Slot machines