NEWS

Online gambling regulation in South Korea

Korean Citizens are prohibited to engage in gambling activities and have hardly any options to gamble. Gambling facilities in the country are open to everyone, but Koreans. It is worth highlighting that gambling sector is not developed in the country, yet it is a tourist attraction tool of the government.

Basics of gambling regulation

Gambling sector is closely monitored and regulated by the National Gaming control commission under  and the government specially legislated certain types of gambling activities and supervised by relevant governmental institutes under National Gambling Control Act, such as: 
  • the Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism regulates the South Korean casino industry, motorboat racing, cycle racing and sports promotion betting tickets (e.g., Sports Toto),
  • the Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs regulates horse racing and traditional bullfighting,
  • the Ministry of Strategy and Finance regulates lottery businesses.
Aforesaid gaming activities are only legal forms of gambling in South Korea and available for its citizens, and each is regulated under specific legislation. For example, gambling in land-based casinos are regulated by the Tourism Promotion Act; lottery is allowed under Lottery Tickets and Lottery Fund Act; betting on racing is legalized under Bicycle and Motorboat Racing Act, the Korean Racing Association Act
The land based gambling sites only serve foreigners and expatriates, thus prohibitive to Koreans except for the only one - Kangwon Land Casino & Hotel where citizens are allowed to gamble. The government seems to support businesses offering profitable gaming services to attract tourists, while restricting its population from such entertainment activities. 

Risks of playing illegally

Game industry promotion act regulates online gambling in the republic, making it illegal, aside from the lottery. Gambling is an act of crime under the Criminal code, and the laws do not provide distinct meaning between online and physical gaming. As per article 247 of the Criminal code, any person conducting unlawful gambling in South Korea will be subject to up to 5 years of imprisonment or KRW 30 million (EUR 22032). This article applies to online gaming activities, apart from the online sales of lottery tickets which is allowed. 
Korean Citizens gambling in unlicensed operators sites (both online and offline) will be fined up to KRW 5 million (EUR 3673), while repetitive infringers are punishable up to 3 years of imprisonments or a pay a fine up to KRW 20 million (EUR 14695). The law has extraterritorial application, as individual players face the same  penalties even if they are caught gambling in other countries. 
 

Online gaming: present and future

Internet censorship is prevalent in South Korea. There are some reports indicating that access to foreign online gaming operators is blocked by Internet Service providers and transactions suspected of being affiliated with foreign online gambling operators are routinely blocked by financial institutions of the country. The Government is not prioritizing any further legalization of gambling activities. Likewise, there is no considerable demand for online gambling from Korean citizens, even if some local licensed operators existed, they could not compete with their offshore counterparts. The position of Korea does not look to switch and the regulatory measures are not expected to change in the near future. 


The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter, not be considered as a legal consultation.