All regulatory requirements have been fulfilled and Korea’s third thoroughbred racecourse will definitely be built at Yeongcheon.
The site in North Gyeongsang Province was selected by the Korea Racing Authority (KRA) in February 2010 and the planning and approval process is now complete. However, in exchange for granting another track, the regulator has demanded further draconian restrictions on gambling on horse racing.
To start with, the KRA will have to close one off-track betting site this year and a further two next year if Yeongcheon is to be able to open in 2014. The KRA currently maintains 34 off-track betting “Plazas” in towns and cities across Korea in order to provide a legal betting outlet for punters who cannot get to the tracks in Seoul and Busan. Anecdotal evidence suggests that illegal betting houses have been more than happy to fill the void in areas where no legal outlets are available, especially since the regulator-enforced closure of the K-Netz online and phone betting platform two years ago. Depressingly, this looks set to increase.
Secondly, and perhaps more fundamentally, the KRA is to agree to press ahead with requirements for all legal punters to be issued with an electronic ID card which will record all transactions they make at the track. The idea, which has been in trials since last year, is ostensibly to identify potential problem gamblers at an early stage and to prevent punters exceeding the 100,000 won per race bet limit by visiting multiple betting windows or terminals. On the plus side, there are suggestions that it may also be used as a “mileage card” whereby punters will get a 1% rebate on all wagers.
Naturally the massive amount of personal information it will collect nor the big juicy contracts to be handed out for setting up and administering the scheme have nothing to do with it.
So it looks like we are set for Yeongcheon – out in the middle of nowhere somewhere in the vague vicinity of Daegu. It isn’t the most logical place to put a racetrack but then neither was the inaccessible site where they decided to build the Busan track. And neither was the place where they decided to build the Jangsu Training Centre in Jeolla Province (levelling half a mountain in the process instead of going somewhere flat). However, those planning decisions worked out very well for some people. No doubt Yeongcheon will too.