Pensions, Casinos and “Prono” – It’s Gambling Update Time!

It wouldn’t be a blank weekend without an update on the goings-on in the Korean gambling world. And there’s been plenty to catch up on.

Strong Start: Pension Lottery 520

Last December, we reported on the new Annuity Lottery being introduced. It finally debuted at the beginning of July under the name “Pension Lottery 520” with winners receiving 5 Million Korean Won each month for twenty years.

There are two winners each week with the draw live on the YTN News Channel on Wednesdays at 7:40pm. Each ticket costs 1000 Won with 6.3Million tickets issued weekly. Sales so far are reported to have been stronger than expected.

Next up is the age-old subject of casinos. The Ministry of Culture, Tourism and Sport is once more pushing for Korean citizens to be allowed into casinos. Korea has 19 casinos up and down the country, but 18 of them are only open to foreigners. The Culture Ministry is not known for supporting racing – which is run by the rival Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Farming – when it comes under regulatory attack, so it will be interesting to see how this one plays out in the weeks ahead.

Culture Minister Jung Byoung Guk as he likes to be seen on his website

A lifting of the ban would possibly have disastrous social consequences in a country like Korea but it is impossible not to accept that Culture Minister Jung Byung Guk has a point when he notes “(it is) absurd for a democracy to forbid its own citizens from engaging in gambling while allowing foreigners to do it.”

Incidentally, Jung Byung Guk looks like a minister worth getting to know if his twitter feed and website are anything to go by.

Last up, Seoul Central District Prosecutors’ Office have indicted three people for running an illegal “virtual horse racing” betting ring. The three are accused of running books on live streams of virtual horseracing (of the type used in many countries around the world) from servers in Hong Kong to Korean punters. Turnover of the illegal operation is reported to have been 8.7 Billion Korean Won.

Illegal virtual horse racing would appear to be on the rise in Korea both on and offline. On the way out of the race track, it is common to have a cigarette lighter thrust in your hand advertising a “Screen Racing Room.”

Cigarette lighters on the way out of Seoul Race Park offer betting Screen Racing as well as something called "Prono"

These operate on the same principle as the online ones only the betting is done in person. Typically there will be a mobile number to ring – sometimes the numbers will direct punters to a website for online gambling and sometimes to a physical location for “live’ gambling.

Interestingly – and perhaps tellingly – on the reverse of these adverts are listings for something called “Prono”, both “Korean and Japanese” for 30,000 won. The telephone number (redacted in the picture to protect the not so innocent – and because Gyongmaman likes his kneecaps in working order) is the same on both sides.

As always, we finish any article on gambling regulation in Korea with the following quotation:

“Currently foreign tourists are able to buy chips only with cash…Government officials said this has discouraged non-Koreans from gambling here adding if visitors were allowed to purchase chips with plastic, they would spend more money”.
(Korea Times, September 2009)

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