Gambling in the Republic of Korea

In South Korea gambling is a crime under Chapter 23 of the Criminal Act. Article 246 stipulates that a person gambling for the purpose of gaining property shall be punished with a fine of not more than five million won. Because we have so many forms of legal gambling here now, this has been amended to exempt gambling which is for momentary pleasure. This same section also stipulates that habitual gamblers be punished by a prison sentence up to 3-years or a fine up to 20 million won.

Something not found elsewhere when looking at Gambling Laws by Country, is this law applies to citizens even when they are abroad. It is a crime for Koreans to play casino in Macau, Las Vegas or anywhere else that is outside our borders. This is not simply a law that is only on the books and then never enforced. Shin Jung-hwan is the former singer of the group Rula and made the news over this.

In 2003, Shin Jung-hwan was fined 5 million won (about USD $4,600) for gambling. He was fined double that in 2005. Later he was caught on video tape gambling in the Philippines. That was enough to spark his arrest when he returned to Korea, for which in 2011 he was given an 8-month prison sentence.

This was however using a celebrity to set an example. In Korea we have legal horse racing, bicycle racing, and sports betting on football, baseball, basketball, volleyball, golf and Ssirum (Korean-style wrestling, which is our traditional national sport). We have four lotteries, 16 casinos for tourists and a casino for Koreans. This is a lot of legal gambling for a country with strict laws against it. In this article I will cover the legal forms of gambling available here, but first I start with information about online betting.