[EDITORIALS]Betting on golf is gambling

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[EDITORIALS]Betting on golf is gambling

A judge at Seoul’s Southern Municipal Court acquitted four people who were accused of gambling on golf dozens of times, betting tens of millions of won over 18 months.
The ruling has raised controversy. It doesn’t conform to the legal sentiment of the general public or the Supreme Court precedent.
The case arose after four men were indicted for betting up to 1 million won per hole during a golf games between December 2002 to May 2004. The men were not identified during the trial.
The court ruled that gambling involves chance. The judge ruled that card games and casinos are gambling, but golf betting is not because in golf games, like other athletic games, the skills of the individual players determine the results of the game.
“If betting money on sports games constitutes the crime of gambling, it will result in unreasonable consequences of deciding the subsidies to Olympic gold medalists or bonuses given to professional players as gambling money,” the judge pointed out.
But it should be noted that skills and capabilities are also required to win in card games. But the court views games as gambling.
In golf or billiards, there is also the possibility that chance plays a role in deciding the winner.
Even if the capability and skills of a player and nothing else are the deciding factors, we have to consider the bad side effects on society of betting unusually large amounts of money.
The decision of a court is not the product of a judge’s personal thinking. It should reflect the trends of the time and the opinion of the society. A sentence different from the trends of the time and fails to reflect the public opinion is not a viable one.
The sentence also contradicts earlier precedents. Other courts have convicted defendants of gambling when they bet on golf. The Supreme Court has affirmed those guilty verdicts.
It is even more confusing if we think about people who were punished for playing Korean card games and betting millions of won.
Giving a judgment on a legal case is prerogative of the judges. However, if the decisions on similar cases differ from each other depending on the court or judge, it will certainly create distrust of the judiciary.
The prosecution said it will appeal the case to a higher court. The appeals court must proceed swiftly and deliver a final judgement on the case.
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