Yesterday saw the last live TV broadcasts of horse racing in Korea before such coverage became illegal today. The Living TV cable channel had previously broadcast four hours on Saturday and Sunday afternoons. The ban comes in conjunction with an enforced end to telephone and internet betting which also came into effect today.
The move to ban TV coverage comes from a fear that as punters can no longer legally bet from home on what they are watching, they will do it illegally. Now they will have to leave their houses. Racing on TV had long been keeping those in charge of the nation’s morals up at night. The maximum bet limit of KRW 100,000 and the 27% take-out rate had meant that many had already been seeking other avenues for their gambling money and to prevent illegal bookmakers using the racing coverage, a time delay was in place to ensure races weren’t actually shown “live”.
Living TV, a relentlessly optimistic channel which spends most of its time showing travelogues set to uplifting music, will continue to show its “Ye-Sang Gyongma!” preview shows on Friday and Saturday evenings.
Many inside racing fear that the strong anti-gambling lobby will use this victory to move onto bigger targets. This year they have succeeded in cutting the number of race dates as well as limiting the number of pari-mutuel windows that can be open at any one time at the track. Now it is the ending of telephone and internet betting coupled with the TV ban. Next in their sights is likely to be the Off Track betting sites – or “KRA Plazas”. Aside from the race tracks themselves, these are now the only places in Korea where it is legal to place a bet.
The KRA is responding. They have worked to position the Plazas – generally located in prestige office buildings – as community hubs on the four days a week there is no racing, with various activities and events taking place free of charge for local residents.
There is some requirement on them to do this. The KRA is part of the Ministry of Food, Agriculture, Forestry & Fisheries (FAFF, as it were) and is mandated to fund a lot of social programs. It also plays a large role in promoting Korean agriculture. Making itself indispensible is perhaps the only defence the racing industry can use when the next onslaught comes.
Meanwhile, as punters become criminalized, those already on the other side of the law remain more than willing to take over.
Update: In semi-related news Korea Beat translates a YTN report about some Korean teachers being caught gambling. It is likely that these games go on up and down the country every day of the week. The report is typical of Korean news coverage of gambling issues in that it describes the teachers as engaging in “anti-educational” acts. Korearacing would contend that, on the contrary, he learned what little mathematics he did calculating each-way returns at Newmarket.