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Online Casinos in Korea

KoreaSouth Korea (which is more officially known as the Republic of Korea) has a complex set of gambling laws governing exactly what is allowed in the nation. There is a general prohibition on the activity, but one with plenty of exceptions, and even full-scale casinos are licensed in various locations throughout the nation. Interestingly, most – but not all – of these venues are only open to foreigners, making it harder to place a bet if you are Korean than if you’re just visiting.

When it comes to online gambling in Korea, the government doesn’t explicitly allow any form of real money betting. However, there are plenty of online casinos in Korea with foreign operators more than happy to let Koreans play on their sites. This means there are plenty of safe and reliable, real money online casinos are available for players in Korea for those interested in giving them a try.

Online Gambling Sites in Korea

Given the efforts to limit how and where citizens can gamble, it probably won’t surprise you to find out there are no government regulated Korean online casino sites. In fact, the nation has sometimes accused neighboring North Korea of creating illegal sites designed to bilk money out of South Korean players. Suffice it to say, there are no Internet casinos that are licensed in this country.

However, that doesn’t mean that South Koreans cannot play casino games online. There are a great number of gambling sites that accept Korean players. These sites include a number of very reputable and trustworthy operations that are popular throughout the world.

This means that you’ll find some of the best software providers offering their games in Korea, provided that you know where to look. You may not find some of the bigger public companies – after all, they tend to stay in regulated markets where there can be absolutely no question of legality – but there’s still an excellent variety to choose from. The following are just a few of the biggest developers who supply Internet games here:

  • Microgaming
  • NetEnt
  • Play'n Go
  • BetSoft
  • Leander Games
  • Realtime Gaming (RTG)

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Industry Mostly Caters to Foreigners

When you first hear the fact that South Korea is home to 17 casinos, you might get the impression that this is a nation with a gaming industry that would rival some of the largest in the world. But while it’s fair to say that there are a fair number of options for betting here, and that the government isn’t completely anti-gambling, this isn’t quite the paradise for bettors that you might believe at first glance.

The biggest issue is the divide between what local citizens are allowed to do and what foreigners are permitted to take part in. At all but one of the land-based casinos in the country, only foreigners are allowed to enter or place bets. This is an effort to allow the state and local governments to collect tax revenues from the lucrative gaming industry, but without encouraging some of the negative social impact that legalized gambling can bring along with that money.

The one exception is Gangwon Land Casino. Build under a law designed to encourage development in abandoned mining areas, this is the one casino that lets anyone through the door, provided that they are 19 or over. Slots and many typical table games can be found here, but even this venue has its quirks: some local residents are still barred from visiting. Presumably, the government is willing to encourage travel from other parts of the country, but doesn’t want locals playing regularly.

The government even places some fairly serious controls on how much Korean citizens can gamble when they are traveling abroad. To be certain, they’re not stopping individuals from visiting a casino or placing the occasional bet. However, there are laws against becoming a “habitual overseas gambler.” That may sound silly, but it can quickly become anything but: some business executives have been indicted on the charge after gambling millions in casinos around the world, with large fines and even the possibility of up to three years in prison possible if found guilty. More recently, a pitcher signed by the St. Louis Cardinals was fined 10 million won ($8,300) for betting heavily in Macau.

Outside of casinos, gaming laws are a little more relaxed here, and there are a few different ways to place bets. Many types of racing – and betting on said races – are regulated in the country, including horse racing, cycling, and motor boat racing. The government also runs standard lotteries as well as a sports lottery known as ToTo, which benefits the country’s Olympic sports program and also allows Korean to bet online.

Foreigner-Only Model May Face Tests

We find it hard to believe that the government will suddenly have a change of heart and allow all of the casinos in the nation to start allowing Koreans in the door. That said, it’s not exactly clear that the “foreigners only” policy currently in place will prove to be sustainable in the long term, at least if the goal is to have a successful gaming industry.

Recently, revenues have been declining at most of the nation’s casinos, likely a result of the reduced number of high-stakes players coming in from China since corruption crackdowns have taken place in that country. But what is striking is that exactly one venue is bucking this trend: and, of course, it is the Kangwon Land, which allows locals to play.

The existing resorts are likely to face an even greater challenge in a couple of years, when at least two large “integrated resorts” are expected to open. These resorts, which will be located in the Incheon Free Economic Zone, are also going to be closed to locals, but expect to offer the kind of amenities that high roller foreigners expect from the world’s greatest gaming destinations. Operators have said that these venues will take several years to turn a profit without the support of Korean gamblers, however, again showing just how much harder it is to run a casino when nobody who lives nearby is allowed to play.

With so much attention on the land-based industry, it’s unlikely that online gambling will see any real progress here over the next few years. In fact, the situation will likely remain as it is now for much longer of that, considering the government’s interest in keeping Koreans from participating in most forms of casino gambling. However, it is also likely that many foreign site owners will keep allowing players here to join their Internet gaming operations, as Korea remains a very lucrative market for operators to target.

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