One of the most common questions that non-South Korean gamblers and poker players have about South Korea is “Is online poker legal in Korea?”
The importance of this question is self-evident for those with a gambling sensibility. Poker as a gambling game exists outside of typical casino table games.
Other relevant links
- The Complete Guide to Gambling in Korea
- What is the Legal Gambling Age in Korea?
- Where can Foreigners Gambling in Korea?
While there is room for debate, most view poker as more than just a game of chance. Indeed, tournament and cash game poker is a legitimate albeit very difficult profession. Personally, I know many rich professional poker players who would never touch a casino table game.
Is online poker & online gambling legal in South Korea?
It is illegal for any company to engage in, administer, or sell online poker or gambling in Korea. There are no legal Korean online casinos or websites. Very strict gambling laws in Korea.
This means that popular online poker sites like Bodog or Pokerstars do NOT have a legal online presence in Korea. There is no pokerstars.co.kr.
This is a pretty straightforward matter, so we’ll move onto the REAL question:
Can I play online poker in South Korea?
Yes. There are no specific laws prohibiting online gambling or poker in Korea.
So if you happen to live in Korea or travel here, is it illegal for you to log onto Pokerstars and start playing? No. However, that doesn’t mean it’s going to be easy.
While you can play online poker in South Korea, there are no legal gambling sites. Gambling is illegal for South Korean citizens. Thanks, Korean government!
How can I play online poker or online gamble in Korea?
Korea has many protectionist restrictions against many foreign businesses and influences. Korea is extremely conservative when it comes to moral policing its populace. For example, Korea completely bans pornography as well as strongly prohibits almost all forms of Japanese media.
This means that you are going to need a combination of several things to play online poker in Korea.
Foreign Bank Account
All credit cards, debit cards, and bank transfers to any type of online gambling site are strictly prohibited. Don’t even try it, you’ll be wasting your time.
To make it even harder, access to foreign “online wallets” is severely restricted or even banned in Korea. Even PayPal, the most popular online wallet in the world, has a separate operation only for Korea and comes with many restrictions. For example, you can’t even transfer money to a non-Korean PayPal.
Other online wallets like QIKI, Neteller, and Skrill have also been banned when connecting them to Korean bank accounts.
The way around this is to have a foreign bank account, which has no such restrictions. It is perfectly legal for you to transfer money from your Korean bank account to a foreign bank account to an online wallet that Pokerstars accepts.
However, the tax implications of this are more murky.
In summary, your money must be deposited from a source completely separate from a Korean bank account.
It depends on the site, but you will likely need or want a VPN when playing online poker in Korea. This is also how most people get around the pornography ban in Korea.
Another way you can deposit money into a gambling site is by using cryptocurrency.
On a personal note, I think this is a horrible idea. Pokerstars does not officially accept cryptocurrency, which means you’ll be going through a shady and expensive intermediary site.
Further, since the cryptocurrency crash of 2018, Korea has severely (and I mean severely!) clamped down on cryptocurrency tracking among foreigners.
The KYC (Know Your Customer) laws are extremely restrictive. You can’t even make a normal bank account in Korea as a foreigner anymore. Gone are the days where you could plug cash into a Korean crypto exchange and then directly take your online crypto wallet to an online gambling casino.
Other Online Casinos in South Korea
There are still some illegal online casino options in Korea. These sites are usually Russian or Chinese. Personally, I’ve seen Chinese players at Walkerhill casino playing various real money gambling games on their phones while at the poker table.
Most of these online casino sites are extremely illegal and consist of a video feed of a live dealer or Gacha machine. Think of something similar to PlayNow or Claw.jp
I can’t say more than that due to legal repercussions. But it’s best to stay away anyway.
In summary, online poker in Korea is possible but very difficult due to strict gambling laws.
This reinforces the idea that gambling and poker in Korea is tolerated insofar as it remains recreational and for tourists. Any method whereby gambling can become habitual or for “professionals” is strictly restricted.
Many foreigners do struggle with this, and gambling addiction in South Korea has become a huge problem.
My advice is to check out where foreigners can legally gamble in Korea and stick with these options as they are more fair and safe (physically, mentally, and for your bank account).