[EDITORIALS]New casinos a mixed prospect

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[EDITORIALS]New casinos a mixed prospect

The Ministry of Culture and Tourism has announced that it will allow the Korea National Tourism Organization and its affiliates to open and run new foreigners-only casinos in the nation, the first since 1994. The new casinos will serve growing demands by foreign tourists, the ministry explained.
We understand the need to expand the casino industry. But because of the negative repercussions associated with the gambling industry, we also ask that the proceeds from the new casinos be used for public purposes.
An estimated 5 million or more foreign tourists enter the country every year, yet Korea’s trade surplus remains in the red. In the past two years, the deficit has increased to about $3 billion a year.
It is time that we thought of ways to reduce that deficit.
Many countries are opting for casinos as a way to make tourists open their wallets. A study shows that casinos, if linked with exhibitions and trade fairs, can attract a great number of tourists. Riding on the wave of Korean pop-culture, Chinese and Japanese tourists are flocking to Korea.
But we lack the environment to completely fulfill their tourist demands. Already, industry insiders are saying that some Chinese tourists are opting to travel to Southeast Asian countries where gambling is more widely available. But Seoul has faced the one-casino only restriction for the past 36 years.
The downside of the casino industry is that it is a business that feeds within the gambler a speculative spirit wishing for Lady Luck to strike big. We have seen people brought down both mentally and materially by it.
When Jeongseon Casino in Gangwon province admitted Koreans, so many people were consumed by that pursuit to strike it rich in a stroke that it became a social problem. Considering that foreigners-only casinos have turned a blind eye to Koreans entering their outlets, we are concerned that the practice might repeat itself at the new casinos.
The new casinos should strictly bar admittance of Koreans.
At the same time, the proceeds from the casino should be used for public purposes. As the main operators, the Korea National Tourism Organization and its affiliates are public institutions, and they should make sure that they live up to their goals as public institutions.
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