[ed] No to casinos for locals

Oceans and Fisheries Minister Yoo Ki-june created a stir last week by unveiling a plan to allow a floating casino that would open its doors to Koreans.

In a press briefing Thursday, Minister Yoo said he would go ahead with the plan, noting that a social consensus has been formed concerning allowing locals entry into shipboard casinos. However, we can’t find any ground for believing his argument for now.

It also defies our understanding that the government revised its plan within months after seeing a relevant law that banned Koreans from gambling aboard casino cruise ships pass the National Assembly in January.

To be sure, allowing Koreans to gamble onboard will help promote the nascent cruise tourism industry, as the government wishes. More competitive operators could also take part in the industry, cashing in on casino revenue from Korean gamblers. This scheme is modeled after Kangwon Land, the nation’s sole casino open to Korean nationals.

True, a number of Asian countries have made all-out efforts to promote the casino industry, which is often called the “golden goose. ” Singapore lured many more foreign tourists by opening casino resorts in 2010, and Japanese big cities such as Tokyo have been vying to host casinos. Kangwon Land’s sales nearly doubled from 810 billion won in 2005 to 15 trillion won last year, raising the possibility that there is still enough room for gambling on the part of Koreans.

But it’s premature to allow Koreans’ entry into the floating casinos, given a plethora of anticipated social dysfunctions, including the mass production of gambling addicts.

Singapore is a case in point. The Southeast Asian city-state has been slapping considerable admission fees on locals entering casinos, but its gambling addiction has already emerged as a serious social problem What matters most is that even a number of poor people have become addicted to gambling. Stories about people who gambled away all their fortunes near Kangwon Land are no longer the news.

Nor is it surprising to hear that Korea has already become the “Republic of Gambling.” Unofficial statistics show that social costs caused by gambling would amount to 78 trillion won a year, and that nearly 5 percent of Korean adults ?about 2 million ?are gambling addicts.

Shipboard casinos, in particular, seem all the more harmful because of convenient access, compared to Kangwon Land located in the mountainous eastern province, as gambling ships will stop at ports across the country. So the government should not allow Koreans to gamble aboard cruise ships for a long time ?probably until casinos can become a place for healthy family entertainment.

SOURCE: The Korea Times

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