Judge goes easy on man charged for gambling site

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Judge goes easy on man charged for gambling site

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A Seoul court judge is under fire for making a subjective judgment against a man who was charged with running an illegal Internet sports betting site.

The judge said that it isn’t right for the government to be increasing public interest in gambling and then turning around and imposing a heavy penalty on one man.

Judge Lee Hyung-joo of the Seoul Central District Court recently sentenced a 34-year-old man surnamed Choi, the owner and the operator of an illegal Internet betting site, to an 18-month suspended jail term with three years’ of probation, a 790 million won ($732,000) fine and 400 hours of community service.

Choi was indicted for running an illegal Internet sports betting site by using servers in China from August 2009 to July 2011, earning 3 billion won.

Choi’s accomplice, surnamed Kim, 33, who was also involved in the country’s professional football league’s (K-League) match-fixing case, was sentenced to three and a half years in prison in his first trial in June of last year by the Jeju District Court.

“It isn’t right for the government to increase public interest in gambling by establishing many casinos and producing many types of lottery tickets and then give a heavy penalty to an individual who had operated a much smaller system,” Judge Lee said in the ruling.

“I judged that it is too much to give a jail sentence to the suspect because his earnings from the Web site will be seized by the court. I think community service could give him a chance to be rehabilitated into a valuable member of our society.”

Prior to the ruling, Judge Lee spent a long time criticizing the government. He said the government is trying to expand the size of the gambling industry too much.

“Everyone knows that the government should lead in promoting a healthy working and social climate before they demand the nation follow their rules,” Lee said.

“But the government instead has been establishing laws that circumvent penalties against illegal gambling activities and expanded the size of various types of gambling, including lottery tickets, horse racing and bicycle racing with the purpose of generating more tax revenue.”

According to a gambling industry source, the total revenue of the industry was 6.27 trillion won in 2000, but increased threefold in 11 years, amounting to 18.3 trillion won in 2011.

But the Lottery Commission under the Ministry of Strategy and Finance and the Korea Racing Authority have asked the National Gambling Control Commission to approve a plan to issue 319.8 billion won more worth of lottery and racing tickets and also to open 32 additional ticket boxes, but the plan wasn’t approved.

“The government is the one that is most aggressively expanding gambling in the country,” Lee said. “It is unfair to punish those individuals who are doing the same thing.”


By Kim Ki-hwan, Kwon Sang-soo [sakwon80@joongang.co.kr]

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