So I am not a huge gambler and I really try my best to avoid casinos. In fact, I have only been to three casinos in my entire life. As an English teacher living in Jeju though, it is hard to ignore some of the massive casinos on the island. Many of them are in close proximity to some of the island's best beaches and they are connected to some of the island's premier resorts. There are eight casinos scattered throughout the small island so when visiting, you are bound to see one. I finally took the plunge and visited one of the fancier ones on the island, Lotte Hotel and Casino, and I am sad to say that casinos seem to be pretty much the same all over the world. Same games, same atmosphere, same buffets, etc....but I was surprised to learn during my visit some interesting facts about gambling in Korea.
The Massive Lotte Casino on Jeju
First, Koreans are not allowed to enter casinos in Korea! Technically, I have heard that it is a crime for Koreans to gamble in an overseas casino as well (although I don't think this is strictly enforced). So basically, it is illegal for Koreans to gamble in casinos anywhere in the world. There are a few exceptions though.
Out of the 17 legally operated casinos in Korea, the government has given only one a permit to allow Koreans to enter. This casino is called Kangwon Land and is located in the remote province of Gangwon. The reasoning behind this exception is that this area has fallen onto hard times as the region's main industy, mining, has practically disappeared. The casino was built to promote the region and give its economy some life.
The other 16 casinos are located in Korea's big cities (Seoul, Incheon, Busan, etc.) or tourist destinations (Jeju). Fortunately, there are thousands of foreign visitors and residents in these areas to keep the casino afloat.
Koreans might not be able to gamble in a casino, but they are able to gamble through other means. The country has a national lottery and online gambling is not regulated. Also, I have heard horse racing is becoming a increasingly popular for gambling. I am not sure of sports betting in Korea, but I am sure it takes place on some level or another.
To bring it back to my original point of visiting a casino on Jeju, while it was interesting to learn another aspect of Korean culture, I would recommend skipping the gambling in casinos on Jeju and visiting all of the natural beauty that Jeju has to offer. But if you must go while teaching abroad, I highly recommend the casinos that are housed in the huge resorts of Lotte, Hyatt, and Shilla....these casinos are worth checking out just because of their location and design.
Adam Montgomery is a 25-year old teacher at the Chungdahm Branch on Jeju. He has been teaching in Korea for over a year. When he is not teaching, he enjoys exploring the wonders of Jeju and Korea.