Gov't Mulling Measures to Open Casinos to Locals

      June 23, 2011 10:20

      New measures are being investigated to allow local residents to gamble at domestic casinos, Minister of Culture, Sports, and Tourism Choung Byoung-gug said on Wednesday.

      At present, Koreans are banned from playing the tables in 16 of the country's 17 casinos, with the exception of one hotel resort in Gangwon Province.

      Choung said at a breakfast meeting held at the Korea Chamber of Commerce & Industry that domestic casinos should be open to Korean nationals, and he vowed to plough ahead with efforts to amend the current regulations. It is absurd to ban Korean citizens from entering gambling halls while at the same time encouraging foreigners to do so, he added.

      "I will look for ways for allow locals to enter casinos," he said. "I'm not sure if I will be able to accomplish this during my term, but I will push ahead with the project." Choung assumed his current role with the ministry in January.

      Of the 16 casinos that cater only to foreigners, Seoul accounts for three and Jeju Island has eight. There are another two in Busan, and one each in Incheon, Daegu and Sokcho.

      The only place Koreans can gamble is at a hotel resort known as Kangwon Land that operates under a special law which was passed to develop the local economy.

      "Since many Koreans disapprove of opening casinos to local citizens, those who want to gamble go abroad and spend their money in foreign countries," Choung said. "The result is that we end up losing out on what should be a highly lucrative and high-end tourism draw."

      He said repealing the ban was not likely to generate negative side effects. Taking Las Vegas as an example, he suggested such a move could in fact lead to other revenue-generating developments and spin-off industries.  

      "Las Vegas used to be a playground for gambling, but now it is more focused on the convention industry and has turned into a city for shopping," said Choung.

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