South Korean gambling laws are quite restrictive in who may play, how often they may play and what types of games may be offered. The only forms of gambling available across the nation are the national lottery and the Sport Toto which is a type of sports betting lottery. There are 17 brick-and-mortar casinos in the country, but South Korean citizens are banned from all but one.
Online casinos in South Korea are also prohibited by law but there are no laws against playing at one. Criminal groups are said to operate underground South Korean betting sites as well. However, there’s no need to play at any of those when you have access to legitimate and established gambling sites based out of countries where online gambling is legal and regulated.
South Korea Betting Sites
Above is a list of Korean gambling websites that offer everything from sports betting to poker to traditional casino games such as baccarat, blackjack and slots. These online betting sites are not located in Korea and are in no danger of being raided by the police and losing your money. Each one has an operating license from its home country.
Are There Risks Playing at Korean Gambling Sites?
There are no specific risks to be concerned with in the immediate future. The biggest risk that I see in playing at an offshore gambling site is South Korea gambling laws changing and prohibiting citizens from playing online. Right now, there are no laws against doing so.
The other potential risk is authorities deciding to reinterpret the Habitual Overseas Gambler law which prohibits citizens from playing at land-based casinos in other countries. The law in its current form does not apply to online gambling, but it’s easy to imagine someone in government deciding otherwise.
Deposits in Won
Asian bookmakers support South Korean won and offer their services in Korean. Those sites are great for certain types of sports betting but don’t offer quite as large a range of gambling options as European casino sites.
European headquartered betting websites offer a much wider range of sports betting options (including horse racing, cycling, motorsports, basketball, baseball and more) plus casino games and poker. The downside is you cannot deposit in KRW at any major European site. They prefer to use Euros, US dollars and Great British pounds.
If you decide to use a European site, you’ll need to set up an e-wallet account with a payment processor like Skrill, or Neteller. You can use that service to automatically convert your deposits into the accepted currency when you deposit and then convert them back into won when you withdraw.
South Korea Gambling Laws
The gambling laws of South Korea are in some ways very prohibitive and in other ways quite relaxed. Land-based casinos are legal in the country, but all of them except one are restricted to foreigners only. The government is happy for companies to provide highly profitable gambling services to tourists but it does not want the social ills associated with gambling to ravage the local population.
The one exception to the land-based casino rule is the Kangwon Land Hotel and Casino. This is the only casino in all of South Korea that allows locals to play. It’s located in a remote mountainous area in order to dissuade too many people from going too often. The casino also prohibits any one person from visiting more than 15 days a month.
Korean law takes it a step further than most countries by also prohibiting citizens from playing at brick-and-mortar casinos in other countries. Anyone caught patronizing foreign casinos is subject to both financial and imprisonment penalties. It’s obviously a tough law to enforce, but there have been cases in the past in which heavy fines were levied on citizens found breaking the law.
As harsh as this law is, it does not appear to impact online gambling in South Korea. I have not been able to find any mention of the internet in this law and have so far been unable to find a single case of a Korean being prosecuted for betting online. Nonetheless, I recommend you seek the advice of a legal professional if you have any questions about Korean gambling law.
South Korea does permit certain forms of betting within the country. Horse racing, bicycling and boat racing can all be bet upon at designated locations. The government-run national lottery provides a lottery as well as limited forms of sports betting in South Korea via Sports Toto and Proto.
Sports Toto is a type of parimutuel wagering in which citizens can place wagers on the outcomes of soccer, basketball, baseball, volleyball and golf matches. All bets placed on Sports Toto events are pooled together, the government keeps a portion of the pool and then divides the remainder equally among the winners.
Proto offers a type of fixed-odds betting similar to what you would find at any European or American sportsbook. Proto calculates the payout odds ahead of time and gives you the ability to place wagers on basketball and baseball only. The downside to using Proto is that it offers significantly lower payout odds than what you can find at offshore sports betting sites.
You can read more about both forms of betting here.
Overall, we could say that the existing gaming laws in Korea are strict but they don’t cover everything. The rise of online betting poses an interesting question. Will South Korea attempt to crack down on offshore betting sites or will it see the futility in prohibition and take the regulation approach? Only time will tell.
Mike Murphy is the founder of OnlineBettingSites.com and has over 10 years of experience in the legal online betting industry. A regular attendee of industry trade shows and conferences, Mike is a strong proponent of regulated markets and responsible gambling policies.