Online Gambling in South Korea – History & Laws

There are lots of things that come to mind when someone mentions South Korea. We usually think of its relationship with North Korea, or we think of K-pop or a country that dominates the eSports scene.

The reality is that South Korea has a strong industry that produces tech and hardware, they also have a strong economy and are overall among the most developed and rich countries. However, what is their position when it comes to online gambling. Here we will go over South Korea’s history and legal landscape when it comes to online gambling.

Gambling History

After World War II Korea was divided between the Soviet and American governments. This ultimately led to the creation of capitalist South Korea and communist North Korea. Each of these two countries started leading a different lifestyle.  Before the formation of this new government, Koreans enjoyed wagering on board games like janggi and sports like wrestling (ssireum). 

With the new legislation, this has changed drastically. Not only were citizens prohibited to gamble at a casino, but they had also been prohibited from gambling in foreign countries thanks to ‘Habitual Overseas Gambler law. Currently, you cannot have an online gambling business within the borders of South Korea.

Current Situation

Over the years the laws did loosen up a bit. As of now, Koreans are allowed to play the lottery, bet on horse and boat racing, and on cycling. There are casinos in South Korea as well, but only tourists are allowed to play there. That being said, Koreans can play on Korean online casino sites which are actually operators from foreign countries. They can also enjoy all the bonuses and promo codes, however, they might have to use VPN in order to access these sites. The government wants to ban access to gambling to Koreans, but as you can see there are a few workarounds.

Moreover, there are illegal gambling businesses in South Korea. These are online betting operators and casino sites and they have been around for a long time. According to some estimates, this illegal market was worth around 66 billion dollars back in 2012. Over the years Korean police did manage to identify and bust some of these bigger providers, which is why it’s way riskier now to try and establish this business there.

Popular Bets

When it comes to popularity, the most played games are those that are legal, so horse racing and boat racing. Given how easy it is for their government to maintain the monopoly on this form of entertainment, it’s difficult to say whether things will change soon. It would make sense to add eSports betting to the mix, given how Korea is one of the biggest markets for that competition.

Another glimmer of hope for gambling enthusiasts is the event that took place in 2012. Even with all of the restrictions, Seol decided to host a poker tournament, and the event was actually sponsored by an online gambling operator. So, there is a chance that gradually these strict regulations will loosen further.


The situation might not look ideal for hard-core fans and gambling enthusiasts. That being said we have to admit that the country has come a long way since the late 60s’ when this activity was almost completely banned. Moreover, illegal operators are still thriving in spite of what happened to some of their peers, and there is still a way for Koreans to access a foreign casino site. All in all, we are likely to see further improvement in the years to come, but it will ultimately come down to people and what kind of policy they choose to support.


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