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Betting in South Korea

Published on: 08/08/2016

South Korea divided from North Korea in 1948. Peace between the two countries was not achieved until 1953, although tensions are still present today.

The Koreans are fond of Gambling and the country has a long history of betting games. An early form of dominoes known as “fighting tablet” was played in Korea, as were other card and board games. Bullfighting, known as Cheongdo So Ssa-eum, where two bulls fight each other, and Ssirum Sumo wrestling are just two other betting activities that date back many centuries. In the 1950s, all gambling, apart from horseracing was forbidden by the South Korean government. In 1954, the Korea Racing Authority (KRA) supervised the creation of a horserace track in Ttuksom in Seoul. The track was the leading horseracing venue in the country until 1989, when a new track called Seoul Racecourse was built in Gwacheon. The sport has been popular in Korea since the late eighteen hundreds and is still enjoyed today.

In 1984, pari-mutuel betting was greatly improved with the appearance of computerized facilities. Prior to this, transaction were carried out manually, which was not ideal, as it was detrimental to the sport and gambling.

South Korea has three main horse racing tracks - the Seoul Racecourse in Gwacheon, the Jeju Racecourse in the city of Cheju and the Gyeongnam Race Park in Busan. All businesses related to horseracing and gambling are managed by the KRA.

The South Korean government has also recognised the value of lotteries, and state licences have been issued for five lottery companies - Sports Toto Company, BET Corporation, Korea Science Foundation, Seoul Olympic Sports Promotion Foundation and Kookmin Bank. Some of the profits are put into national welfare projects.

Korean citizens were banned from gambling in casinos. However, the Paradise Walker-Hill Hotel gained a licence for gaming in the 1970s purely for the intention of attracting foreign visitors. The venture generated huge revenues through taxes which led to another casino being granted a licence. Nowadays, there are at least 16 legitimate casinos located throughout the country. The Kangwon Land Resort & Casino hosted in Jeongseonngun is now available for the local people to enjoy wagering in. All sports gambling was illegal in Korea - however, in 2001, certain sports were made legal for gambling including football, golf, basketball, volleyball, baseball and motor racing.

The first gambling company to promote fixed odd bets was Sports Toto - their tickets are sold throughout Korea, and some of their profits are forwarded to benefitting the countries sporting infrastructure. South Korea government authorities remain steadfast in trying to block internet gambling - no licences are obtainable and online gambling is illegal throughout the country.

South Korea citizens still frequent off-shore online sportsbooks, of which there are many including Ladbrokes, William Hill, and bet365. A handful even provide information in the Korean language.