Online Gambling Laws in South Korea

Gambling has always been part of South Korea’s history, bets were often placed on janggi (similar to chess) and ssireum (similar to sumo wrestling), until government legislation on gambling became very strict. Citizens were not allowed to gamble within the country, and under the 'Habitual Overseas Gambler' law were barred from casinos in any foreign countries they visited.

Laws have gradually been relaxed, but it remains illegal for a company or individual to run an online casino in South Korea. The government launched a state-owned lottery in the 1990s, and created SportsToto, a government-backed betting service for a variety of sports including football, horse-racing, cycling, boat-racing, baseball, basketball and golf. Any other gambling operation is seen as a threat to the government monopoly.

Wagers are limited and there is no online presence for gamblers in South Korea. Many companies within South Korea have set up illegal sports betting and casino operations online, with estimates suggesting these are worth several billion US dollars. This is a high risk strategy, as the South Korean police have made several high-profile raids on illegal online betting rings in recent years.

To access higher betting limits, lower taxes, more markets and the convenience that internet gambling brings, Koreans use overseas bookmakers. Websites including Ladbrokes and 888 accept Korean currency and, fall outside the jurisdiction of South Korean law. Whilst the government attempts to ban access to these sites, causing internet connection to these sites to sometimes be temperamental, players usually bypass government blocks by setting up an e-wallet and masking their origins with a VPN service.

The South Korean government may look to see if the integration of online gambling could be beneficial to its SportsToto franchise, but to date there is nothing to confirm this is being considered.