Casino destination Jeju is still mulling the “pros and cons” of seeking to offer online gambling via its foreigner-only bricks and mortar casinos, as the semi-autonomous South Korean holiday island recovers from loss of in-person tourism amid the Covid-19 pandemic.
The information was given to GGRAsia during the latter’s visit to the headquarters of the Jeju Special Self-Governing Province government (pictured).
Jeju has had since 2009, its own regulatory rules for casinos. The island has currently eight licensed casinos, but five of those are presently shut temporarily, coinciding with the downturn in tourism amid the pandemic.
According to Alex Park, assistant director of the Jeju government’s Casino Policy Division, in comments to GGRAsia, the idea of Jeju’s “bricks and mortar casinos,” being able to “offer remote gambling over the Internet to overseas customers” is “currently being examined,” in terms of “pros and cons,” with any “drawbacks” to be considered.
That division of the Jeju government coordinates local casino regulation.
The possibility of permitting remote gambling in South Korean casinos was raised in October by a member of the National Assembly’s Culture, Sports and Tourism Committee.
A policy forum held in November by the Jeju government, heard a number of South Korean academics suggest online gambling services should be considered via Jeju bricks and mortar gaming venues, using payment methods including blockchain.
Any such move would require national government approval. The country’s leadership changed on May 10, when Yoon Suk-yeol took office as South Korea’s president, following an election in March.
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Nonetheless, Jeju’s Casino Policy Division official appeared to rule out in their comments to GGRAsia, the possibility of permitting South Koreans to gamble in the island’s casinos.
Mr Park described that notion as “typical media manipulation”, and based on a single phrase in a written presentation from a panellist at November’s policy forum.
The official said, referring to the earlier days of the island’s casino industry: “Before, Jeju casinos had an infamous image, so we have been focusing on securing safe and clear transparency regarding Jeju casinos, via both control and support.”
South Korea’s National Gambling Control Commission – under the Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism – also has a role in overseeing Jeju, in terms of monitoring total casino sales, and policing any attempts at running illegal casinos there.
Jeju’s Casino Policy Division is responsible for monitoring day-to-day casino operations, including inspection of machine game functions such as percentage return to player; analysis of video security for table games; and approval of new games.
One area the local policy division has been examining is the idea of a “casino licence renewal system”, said Mr Park.
Currently in South Korea – in the absence of a specific law to regulate the casino industry – a casino licence once issued, is valid indefinitely.
The Casino Policy Division said it has suggested to the Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism, that there should be a time limit on such licences. There has been “no progress so far” on the matter, said the Jeju official.
In other topics of discussion, the Jeju regulator mentioned the importance – in the post-pandemic recovery period – of drawing tourists and foreign customers for the island’s casinos, from beyond Japan and China.
“For our tourism strategy after the end of Covid-19 pandemic, we’d like to focus more on attracting Mongolia and Vietnam tourists, as those countries are possessing a large group of Korean culture and Korean wave fans”, said Mr Park, referring latterly to the popularity across Asia of South Korean pop music and television and film dramas.
Visa-free access to Jeju for holders of certain passports will be restarted on June 1, after a more-than two-year pause.
(Updated 4.42pm, July 25)
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