Casinos too tempting for publicMinister of Culture, Sports and Tourism Choung Byoung-gug said in a recent breakfast forum sponsored by the Korea Chamber of Commerce, he will campaign to allow Korean nationals to have access to casinos that are exclusively for foreigners.
Currently, Kangwon Land Casino in Jeongseon, Gangwon, is the only casino that permits Koreans to enter. There are three casinos exclusively for nonKoreans in Seoul, eight in Jeju, two in Busan, and one each in Incheon, Daegu, and Sokcho, for a total of 16 nationwide.
Gambling is still considered a taboo in our society. Kangwon Land opened in October 2000 to revive the region’s economy after its mining industry dwindled, has been connected to corruption and a proliferation of gambling addicts. The casino has been too lenient about guest control and setting betting limits. Should Korean nationals be accepted at other casinos, they must be strictly regulated.
Gambling is a basic human instinct. Outright prohibition can only breed abnormal hybrids. Law enforcement authorities have been struggling to fight illegal gambling but it is rampant in various forms and places. Illegal hideouts are reported to be popular. The 10 billion won found in a garlic field in April in Gimje, North Jeolla, has been traced to an illegal gambling ring. If not underground, the gambling funds head out to Macau. We must be cool-headed about these realities when dealing with the casino problem.
The minister said he is confident our society is mature enough to fight the temptation. But he is mistaken. Our people like to go all the way. There is no middle ground. It is why Kangwon Land produced a cascade of consumer bankruptcies. If the government wants to consider greater local access to casinos, it must take safety measures. Spending caps on a daily, monthly and annual basis could be employed. Lottery causes less of a problem because tickets are cheap.
A strict society like Singapore eventually agreed to allow locals access to casinos after too many Singaporeans crossed the border to gamble in Malaysia. The project could also be helpful in spurring jobs and tourism and new casinos wouldn’t entail much maintenance during the nonpeak season.