Off-track betting finds a place in the community

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Off-track betting finds a place in the community

In the past, off-track betting (OTB) centers for horse racing were a headache for local communities. Not only did they have a negative image of promoting gambling, they also caused traffic congestion in the area, and residents had to face drunks when there was a race.

But now, OTB centers are transforming into cultural community centers where local residents can visit to learn various activities.

The Korea Racing Authority (KRA) runs 30 OTB facilities where people watch racing on screens and place bets. The place is known as “Let’s Run CCC” (Culture Convenience Center).

To make the centers acceptable in the community, the KRA has raised the admission fee from 2,000 won ($1.70) to 30,000 won when there is a race and has brought in alcohol detectors to prevent people who have already had drinks from entering the center.

At the Let’s Run CCC Gangnam District branch in Cheongdam-dong, southern Seoul, there are various cultural programs held each day, such as singing, guitar, dance lectures and flower arrangement lessons. A horseback riding program, in association with nearby horseback riding tracks, is also one of the top programs.

The Gangnam branch said its programs are also supported by the Gangnam District Office, offering programs for multicultural families and promoting the office’s work.

“Those who live in Cheongdam-dong can participate in the programs for free, while those who live in Gangnam District can get a 50 percent discount. There is not much pressure to take various cultural lessons,” said 70-year-old Nam Eui-ja, who takes singing lessons at the Let’s Run CCC Gangnam branch.

“The facilities and atmosphere around the community have really become better than in the past.”

Ha Kwan-jin, a 52-year-old resident who lives near the Let’s Run CCC Gangnam branch said, “In the past, the place was chaotic when there was a race, but now people enjoy horse racing in a clean manner and order.”

According to the KRA, there are about 600 lessons offered at its 30 Let’s Run CCC branches. About 20,000 people take classes from the center.

Overseas, off-track betting facilities already serve as rest places for communities. In Japan, some OTB facilities have been combined with theaters, while in New York, there is an OTB center combined with a restaurant.

The KRA said it knows the public image of off-track betting centers has been bad, but it now hopes to transform the image, proving that centers can be beneficial to communities,

“The goal of the Let’s Run CCC is to make a place where it can communicate with the local community with various culture and art programs,” said Park Ki-sung, who heads the co-existence business division at the KRA. “In the near future, we plan to furnish the centers with many books, with the hope of creating a library in the downtown area where everyone can enjoy reading.”

BY CHUNG JEH-WON AND LEE SUNG-WOONG [joo.kyungdon@joongang.co.kr]
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