The Alpensia resort outside of PyeongChang, South Korea, is the site to many events of the 2018 Winter Olympics.
The resort itself resembles many resorts that are scattered across the United States. Multiple hotels and restaurants, a ski lodge, a water park, and even a casino. Yet the casino, often seen as a staple to many popular resorts, isn’t meant for just anyone. And by that, I mean it’s for everybody but the South Korean people.
USA Today’s Dan Wolken took a trip inside the casino — which had signs posted all around the resort — to find that outside himself and a “few guys from the NBC crew playing blackjack,” there were very few actual gamblers. The only Koreans he saw inside the resort were the workers themselves.
— Jon Urbana (@jonurbana1) February 23, 2018
As the underground casino scene in “Black Panther” might indicate, only one of the 23 casinos in South Korea allows legal gambling by South Korean citizens. The others are meant only for foreign visitors. That’s not the weirdest part of the gambling laws, though. When South Koreans leave the country, casino gambling is still illegal — though they can gamble on select games, horse racing, boat racing and cycling.
“It’s a very sensitive issue for the general public,” an attorney who spoke to Wolken on the condition of anonymity said. “I haven’t seen any recent poll, but still there are some negative opinions on the casino industry, so it wouldn’t be easy for the government to liberalize the regulation on casino industry.”
According to the Korea Center on Gambling Problems, gambling addiction in South Korea in 2016 was 5.1 percent, which they say is “two to three times higher than gambling addiction rates in major foreign nations.” They also claim that the current number of problem adult gamblers is more than 1.97 million people.
Though in order to continue to grow its economy, South Korea has built a slew of casinos to attract tourists. A new “foreigners-only casino” is set to open on Jeju Island — a popular tourist island off the southern coast of the Korean Peninsula — next week.
So while South Korea is opening new casinos to attract tourists and boost local economies, don’t expect them to loosen gambling laws for their own citizens anytime soon.
“There are some conflicting ideas in order to induce more foreign capital into Korea that we need to liberalize casino regulations because the foreign investors may develop the areas and increase job numbers and ultimately promote the Korean economy,” the attorney told USA Today. “But many people’s reaction is that positives are limited and there are more side effects.”
More Olympic coverage from Yahoo Sports:
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• U.S. men boot Canada for chance at curling gold