Most Popular Bookies in South Korea

South Korea has a very complicated and often controversial relationship with sports betting and gambling in general. As with many of its neighbors in the Southeast Asia region, the country views gambling as a vice, and it heavily restricts and regulates all forms of gambling, whether online or offline. That being said, sports wagering is actually a very popular pastime in South Korea, both through legal and illegal platforms.

South Korea's laws allow for betting on horse racing, bicycle races, and powerboat races. Most of these gambling activities have to take place on government-owned gambling platforms. The government also allows many lotteries as the other form of legal gambling.

Most Popular Bookies in South Korea

Through the SportsToto system, South Koreans can legally wager on popular sports like football, baseball, and volleyball. It is important to note that the SportsToto platform is not available online, and it features a lot of restrictions on maximum wagers and types of bets.

There are 23 land-based casinos in South Korea, 22 of which only serve tourists. Only one casino, the Kangwon Casino, allows local players, but it is located in a remote part of the country that is not easily accessible from Seoul. Online casinos and sportsbooks are not permitted to operate in South Korea.

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History of Betting in South Korea

History of Betting in South Korea

Gambling has always been popular throughout the Korean peninsula. Popular sporting events that Koreans wagered on included wrestling and competitive board games like janggi. Gambling regulation can be traced back to the post-World War II period. Gambling was popular throughout South Korea, but it was mainly seen as a vice, a negative influence on the country's social fabric.

As such, the newly formed South Korean government banned most forms of gambling, except Horse Racing. It is interesting to note that North Korea, despite its ideological differences with the South, also banned all forms of gambling at around the same time. Gambling was seen in a negative light throughout the Korean Peninsula.

1967 saw the rules relaxing with the first land-based casino being built in South Korea. This was to provide much-needed income to the cash-strapped country by maximizing the revenue generated by the tourism industry. Locals were still banned from the casinos, which were only accessible by those with foreign passports.

Another interesting point is that South Korea does not recognize dual citizenship. Any local who accepts foreign citizenship in effect gives up their Korean citizenship. So there was no workaround for local citizens.

Other developments saw the legalization of betting on boat racing and cycling, mostly on state-run gambling operations. More casinos were built, all of which exclusively catered to tourists and expatriates living in South Korea.

History of Betting in South Korea
Betting nowadays in South Korea

Betting nowadays in South Korea

Significant developments in recent times include the creation of the SportsToto organization in the 1990s. For the first time, this allowed betting on sports like baseball, football, volleyball, basketball, and golf. But it was heavily restricted and regulated. For starters, this could only be done with the SportsToto organization, which was state-owned. Also, until today, SportsToto is not available online. There are also numerous restrictions regarding the maximum wagering limit.

2016 saw the first land-based casino that allowed locals to gamble. The downside was that it was located in the remote Gangwon province amid abandoned coal mines. This was a deliberate move to block access by the Koreans in the most populated areas like Seoul. Despite its inconvenient location, it is still the most popular casino in South Korea.

Online gambling has been another interesting betting arena in South Korea. First of all, it is considered illegal, and there are no licensed local online gambling operations. What's more, the government actively blocks local connections from accessing offshore online gambling sites. With South Korea having one of the most technologically savvy populations globally, many find ways to bypass these blocks through VPNs and other workarounds.

Betting nowadays in South Korea
The future of betting in South Korea

The future of betting in South Korea

There has always been a push from some gambling enthusiasts for South Korea to relax and modernize its law regarding gambling, especially online gambling. Obviously, the country recognizes the positive economic impact that gambling can have. It allows land-based casinos to serve tourists and foreign nationals. The SportsToto platform and other legal forms of gambling also constitute an industry that generates several billion dollars every year.

Despite this, there is no indication that the government is planning to review its ban on online gambling. In fact, efforts to ban access to offshore online gambling sites seem to be getting ramped up. The government still refers to gambling as a vice to be combatted or heavily regulated. This has not changed over the decades.

This means that illegal and underground gambling operations will continue to be popular in South Korea. Estimates suggest that the illegal gambling industry in South Korea is worth upwards of 66 billion US dollars. Until changes are made to legalize gambling, these illegal operations will continue.

The future of betting in South Korea
Betting acts in South Korea

Betting acts in South Korea

Gambling in South Korea is regulated by Article 246 of the country's criminal code. The law states that anybody found gambling for profit can be fined up to a maximum of 5 million won. If the culprit is a repeat offender classified as a habitual gambler, they can be sentenced to a jail term not exceeding three years or fined up to a maximum of 20 million won.

What makes the South Korean gambling law different from other gambling bans is that it applies to Korean citizens when they are out of the country. If there is evidence that a Korean citizen gambled while out of the country, even in a country where gambling is legal, then the same punishments can be applied.

In fact, there have been numerous examples of Koreans that have been charged for gambling in Macau and Las Vegas. This legal overreach doesn't just apply to gambling; it also extends to the country's drug laws. South Koreans are barred from consuming marijuana even when they are in a jurisdiction that has legalized it.

Interestingly, this law has not been enforced for online gambling as of 2022. The government's approach to online betting has blocked access to these offshore sites. No one has been prosecuted for playing at online casinos. It seems that the law, as it was drafted, can only be enforced when gambling occurs at a land-based casino.

There is also a separate law that governs operators of illegal gambling operations. Since there are no South Korean-based online casinos, it is unclear if these would also apply to online operators.

Despite enforcement enthusiasm in regular crackdowns and prosecutions, South Korea has a very vibrant illegal gambling scene that addresses the market gap caused by the gambling ban. Illegal gambling mostly comes in the form of unlicensed underground casinos and sports gambling bookies.

Betting acts in South Korea
South Korean players' favorite sports

South Korean players' favorite sports

Sports betting and sports fandom often go hand in hand - and South Korea is a very passionate fanbase for a number of sports. The two most popular sports, by some distance, are football (soccer) and baseball. However, the gambling laws make it difficult for one to legally wager on these sports.

The sports that the legal code allows betting on include powerboat racing, cycling, and horse races. Therefore, by default, these sports are the most popular games that South Koreans bet on - legally.

The SportsToto platform allows Koreans to bet on the more popular sports like football, baseball, basketball, volleyball, and golf. But the restrictions, such as the lack of an online gambling platform, make SportsToto inaccessible to many. This is without factoring in restrictions on the types of bets allowed and limits on the amount one can wager on each bet.

As things currently stand, horse racing and the other sports that are legal to bet on are the most popular. But, South Korea has an illegal gambling industry that is valued at more than 66 billion dollars. Underground sports betting is more indicative of the most popular Korean sports, with most wagers being on soccer and baseball.

South Korean players' favorite sports
Payment methods in South Korea

Payment methods in South Korea

When looking at payment methods in South Korea, we have to consider legal betting and betting on offshore online casinos are two separate domains. Legal betting on sports like cycling and horse racing and betting on the SportsToto system is primarily cash-based. This is because these operations are almost exclusively done offline.

But in a modern country like South Korea, there are always hi-tech solutions to offline transactions. Players have the option to use:

  • Credit or debit cards
  • Direct bank transfers
  • Mobile transactions

When it comes to the legal gray area of online gambling, most of these options are not available. As part of its concerted effort to enforce the ban on online gambling, South Korea monitors transactions to make sure that they are not funding gambling activities.

This means that direct bank transfers from Korean banks and even the use of South Korean-issued cards can be problematic when it comes to online gambling. To play online, players have to use innovative solutions like:

  • International e-wallets like PayPal, Skrill, Neteller, and EcoPayz that are not Korean-based. These can be funded from a local card, and the funds can then be used to make a deposit at an online casino.
  • Physical and digital payment cards that haven't been issued in Korea
  • Cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin, Lite Coin, Ethereum, and DogeCoin
Payment methods in South Korea
FAQs

FAQs

Is gambling illegal in South Korea?

Gambling is not illegal in South Korea, but it is heavily restricted and regulated. Only one casino allows local citizens as customers, and the government actively blocks access to online casinos.

However, betting on horse racing, cycling, and powerboat racing is legal. Lotteries are another legal form of gambling. Through SportsToto, Korean's also get to bet on popular sports such as football, baseball, and volleyball.

Can you play online casinos in South Korea?

No, you can't. The government does not license local online casino operators, and they also actively block access to offshore international online casinos. Korean players have to use VPNs and other means to bypass this block and play at online casinos.

Can Koreans gamble at casinos while outside the country?

No, they can't. The country's law extends to any jurisdiction a Korean is in. Even when in countries where casinos are legal, South Koreans can be prosecuted for breaking the law when they return home. The punishment is similar to offenders who are apprehended within the territory of South Korea.

FAQs