south-korea-online-gambling-crackdownIt appears the threat of attack from North Korea isn’t the only thing on the agenda of the South Korean authorities these days, as police in the province of Gyeonggi have been busying themselves with taking down illegal South Korean sports betting Internet sites.

The country promised a crackdown on illegal sports betting operations less than a month ago, and a recent raid of an online operation saw the arrest of 13 suspects, four of whom have been charged with actually operating the site, while the rest were seen as technical support staff to the illegal operation.

Interpol Called In

Local authorities have enlisted the help of international authority Interpol to help them track down a further ten suspects who are believed to have fled the country, fearing arrest. You certainly could have put money on that happening.

Those arrested have been accused of launching over 200 illegal websites in the first six months of 2011, as well as promoting these unlawful sites through non-gambling sports websites.

Mobile Gaming Blamed

“Smartphone was the culprit,” said police investigator Shim Jae-hoon to the Global Post. “Internet access is free and instant. Everybody got addicted.”

As there are no legal online gambling options available to South Koreans, and only one land-based casino is open to locals, perhaps stringent laws should take their share of the blame. And while we certainly cannot condone the illegal sports betting sites, there is little doubt when illegal sports betting is listed as a $6.67 billion business by the Korean National Gambling Control Commission that it’s not going away anytime soon.

Although Shim Jae-hoon’s argument isn’t completely unfounded as the Korea Sports Promotion Foundation estimates that since the increase in popularity of smartphones and other mobile devices, the number of illegal sports betting websites available to South Koreans increased to 23,000 in 2012.

TV Personality Scandal

Last month, Korean television personality and (Korean) household name, Kim Yong-man, relieved himself of his TV show hosting duties following the admission of an ongoing police investigation into his online sports betting recreational activities.

The Seoul Central Prosecutors Office stated that the television presenter confessed to betting more than one billion Korean won, which equates to around $885,000, over the last five years on soccer games in the UK Premier League, as well as on horse racing and other sporting events.

Kim’s illegal activities came to light during a police investigation into forty bank accounts which traced the activity back to the public figure. While it is easy to feel that Kim has been unfairly treated if you live in a nation in which online sports betting is available, we do have to keep in mind that this is still illegal in South Korea.

Perhaps it’s time the world’s governments all took a long, hard look at the world of online gambling and saw the demand that exists. Obviously it is important to have a regulated market that protects the public, but having nothing available other than illegal operations does no good whatsoever to the general public, who will always find a way en masse to have their fun.