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South Korea to tackle illegal gambling with new guidelines

The South Korean Government has come up with a guideline specifically aimed at the loophole allowing illegal gambling at “hold’em pubs.”

According to a report in the Korean Herald, to address the legal loophole allowing illegal gambling and pseudo-casino operations at drinking establishments called “hold’em pubs”, the South Korean Government has come up with a set of guidelines specifically for tackling this issue.

Collaborating with the Ministry of Culture, Culture, Sports and Tourism, the National Police Agency and the National Gambling Control Commission, the guideline aims to ban pseudo-casino operations based on a recent revision of the Tourism Promotion Act Article 26.

Under Article 26, as quoted from the report, ‘casino-like operation shall be defined as “one where a non-casino operator provides casino business to grant financial benefit to a certain user while inflicting financial deficit on others.” Violators face up to seven years in prison or a 70 million won ($51,000) fine.’

As reported per the rules attached to Article 26, there are 20 types of games that fall under the category of casino business. These include slot machines and most forms of table games including roulette, blackjack, dice or craps, poker, baccarat, bingo and mahjong.

“Hold’em Pubs” are drinking establishments that provide gambling services or games that fall under the category of ‘casino business’ to their patrons/visitors, where the winnings can be converted to cash or other benefits such as bonus points or discounts. These activities, under the guideline, are regarded as pseudo-casino operations, and the government has specified that the law revision was provided to “cease the illegal activities at hold’em pubs.”

Under Article 246 of the Criminal Act, gambling in South Korea is illegal and forbidden, except for ‘small bets placed for fun’ and at facilities authorised by the Government. Kangwon Land Casino in Jeongseon-gun, Gangwon Province, is the only legal casino in South Korea. The casino has been given an exception under the Special Act on the Assistance to the Development of Abandoned Mine Areas in the 1990s.

Aside from illegal gambling, the South Korean Government is also reportedly dealing with the rise of online gambling addiction in teenagers.