Gambling On Casinos

Legalized gambling is kind of funky in South Korea.  With the exception of one casino, the 16 others in the country are only open to foreigners.  (To get in you need a membership card, a passport, or an alien card, and illegal gambling in a whole other story.)

That makes sense — make money off the foreigners but keep South Koreans themselves relatively free from harm.

But now a number of American and Asian gambling conglomerates want to open more all-inclusive “resort” style foreigner casinos, but only if the government lets the locals roll the dice and spin the wheels:

“A gaming executive with extensive experience in the US and Asia says the Caesars IR will be a ‘slam dunk,’ and the large number of license applicants provides a further endorsement of gaming in Korea. But the numbers aren’t running investors’ way. Gaming revenue for Korea’s 16 foreigners-only casinos was virtually flat last year, while the single, remote casino where Koreans can play recorded double digit gaming revenue growth. Foreigner-only gaming revenue likely fell in the first quarter of this year

KORE Policy & Management Consulting general manager Tim Lee says Korea already has plenty of casino choices for visitors; the Paradise casino in Incheon’s Grand Hyatt that the IR will replace is an attractive place to play that could hardly be closer to the airport. Seoul-based KORE believes that the key for Korea to compete regionally is ‘open casinos,’ ie, allowing Koreans to play, enabling larger IRs to be developed. Steve Wynn has said explicitly that he’d build a multibillion dollar resort in Korea if locals were allowed to play.”

I used to play in Saturday Hold’Em tournaments at the Daegu Casino but quit over two years ago.  (Yes, sleepy Daegu has its own foreigner casino!)  Morally I don’t have any issues with them but more personally, they tend to be filled with sad, awful people.

The gaming preferences were interesting though.  For the most part, the poker table was completely filled with English teachers and American G.I.’s.  The roulette wheel got a lot of takers, but primarily older Chinese businessmen making ridiculous bets.  The blackjack tables were also mostly mixed.  The biggest attraction however was baccarat, which drew in a mix of Japanese tourists (they even had exclusive tournaments for Japanese folks) and Filipino day-laborers.

Like I said though, it’s been years.  There were also tons of video slot machines that nobody seemed to have any interest in.  Oh, and a few tables of that crazy three-card poker game that always scared me.

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