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Wednesday, 26 December, 2001, 14:11 GMT
Gambling fever hits S Korea
Roulette wheel
As recession bites, many want to get rich quick
By Caroline Gluck in Seoul

South Korea may be feeling the pinch of recession, but with hard times looming, the country's gambling industry is cashing in.

Us Koreans are loving risk-taking

Shin Song Wong of Tiger Pools

The industry, which was worth about $5m last year, just keeps growing.

Analysts say the economic downturn has driven South Koreans increasingly to pin their hopes on hitting the jackpot.

With the opening of the country's first on-line lottery in 2002, the lottery market alone is expected to double.

And as the country prepares to co-host the World Cup finals with Japan, football fever is expected to drive ever more people to take a punt.

Risk takers

The Sports Toto lottery game was launched this year, involving forecasting and betting on football and basketball results, similar to the British football pools.

Shin Song Wong of Tiger Pools, which promotes football in the country, explains South Korea's love affair with gambling.

World Cup logo
Football fever will drive many to take a punt

"Us Koreans are loving risk-taking," he says.

Lottery sales in South Korea are expected to sky-rocket next year with the debut of the country's first on-line lottery, Lotto.

But gambling is also on the rises in more traditional arenas.

Betting at the country's two state controlled horse race tracks rose by more than 25% in the first half of the year. Bets on cycling surged 50% in the same period.

Tens of thousands of people meanwhile, flock to South Korea's first domestic casino, which opened late last year in a former coal-mining town.

But much of the gambling still takes place illegally, still regarded by many as a social vice.

But that has not prevented growing numbers from placing a bet, pursuing the ultimate dream of quick riches.

See also:

06 Nov 01 | Asia-Pacific
Fifa warns S Korea over dog meat
25 Oct 01 | Asia-Pacific
South Korea on alert
30 Sep 01 | Business
Casino firm loses Vegas gamble
28 Mar 01 | Business
Australia may ban online gambling
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