Meanwhile in … Seoul: online betting on table for South Korea as illegal activity soars

Horse Racing South Korea where online betting could be introduced
Racing in Korea: meetings have resumed but without fans there is no income for the sport. Photo: KRA

South Korea: A surge in illegal gambling has united lawmakers from both sides of the political divide to urge the swift passing of legislation permitting online betting in a desperate bid to save the horse racing industry.

Although horse racing resumed between June and August, legal betting facilities remained shut, driving bettors to illegal online sites, more than 3,000 of which have been shut down or blocked since the first lockdown in February.

South Korea is an international outlier in not having an online betting system and relies on fans betting at tracks and off-track betting centres for the sport’s income stream. Racing has had to take place behind closed doors until a partial lifting of restrictions allowed a small number of fans to return from Friday.

In late August, a bill to partially amend the KRA Law to allow online sales was proposed by a member of the ruling Democratic Party. This prompted a second Assembly member to table a detailed bill for the legalisation of online wagering, and last month former Agriculture Minister Chung Woon-chun and another ten opposition members tabled another bill for online wagering to be permitted and stronger punishments for illegal betting operators. 

“As domestic horse racing has stopped, legal players are flowing into the illegal horse racing market,” said Chung Woon-chun. “A legal and institutional arrangement must be urgently prepared to create a healthy horse racing industry and protect legal horse racing customers.” 

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