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Where can Foreigners Gamble in Korea?

Walkerhill Casino Seoul, Korea
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Although South Korea isn’t exactly a gambling mecca such as Las Vegas, Monte Carlo, or nearby Macau, there’s definitely a full spectrum of games to partake in.

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Korean Lottery

There’s several types of lotteries in Korea (Official Site), but the main type is called the 6/45 lottery. This is similar to Powerball in the United States. Experienced lotto players will know the nomenclature: Pick 6 numbers out of 45 total numbers.

https://i.imgur.com/dmmPbPR.png
Korean Lotto 6/45 Ticket

There’s also a special lottery called “Pension Lottery” or 연금 로또 (“Yeongum Lotto”), which is a recent addition designed to combat the harsh reality of lottery winners going broke.

Scratch Tickets

Scratch tickets in South Korea are administered by the same government institution that lottery tickets are. They mainly come in one format and are separated into different price (and prize) tiers.

The main gist is that you must get two matching symbols. If you win, you can scratch off where it says “prize” to get your money. The main name for these are 스피또 5억 or 20억, which stands for Speedo Ticket 500,000,000 KRW or 2,000,000,000 KRW.

You can roughly convert the value of KRW but removing three zeros. So that would be about $500,000 and $2,000,000, respectively.

Korean lotto scratch TICKET
Korean Lottery Speedo Scratch Ticket. Match two symbols to win!

Find out more about the Korean lotto and Korean scratch tickets at my Korean Lottery article.

Sports Betting

Now, we are sticking to LEGAL forms of sports betting in this post, but I do talk about illegal and underground gambling in South Korea here. That being said, Korea has a lot of spectator sports betting establishments.

Horse Racing

The betting turnover for horse racing in South Korea is the 3rd largest in Asia, which is quite the surprise (behind Japan and Hong Kong). The horses in Korea are also a mixture of Korean-bred and foreign-bred horses.

The Korean Racing Association holds exclusive rights over horse betting in Korea, and private betting operations are not legal. The KRA has a pari-mutuel betting system, which includes six types of bets – win, place, quinella, exacta, quinella place, and trio. The minimum accepted bet is 100 Korean won (about 9 cents), and the maximum that can be put down in a single bet is 100,000 Korean won ($90).

As you can see, it is a common theme in Korea that betting is hard-capped. I go into the problems of gambling addiction in Korea here.

The two main racehorse tracks in Korea are outside Seoul in Gwacheon and in Busan. Races at Seoul Race Park (or LetsRun Park Seoul) take place every Friday and Saturday, with about 12 races per day. Plenty of time to have some fun with friends.

Traditional Sports Betting

Traditional sports betting in South Korea is administered by Sports TOTO, which has two types of games, TOTO and PROTO, for multiple sports. These sports include soccer, baseball, basketball, volleyball, golf, and more.

The games come in a variety of forms based on win, loss, draw, probabilities, prop bets, final score, series bets, homeruns, score range, and many more.

For example, with BasketballTOTO Special N (yes, that’s the real name), you predict the final score range of NBA games.

Basetball-TOTO
BasketballTOTO Special N

You can even bet on OU (Over-Unders) for the home and away teams for any sport. This is called TOTO Under-over.

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TOTO Under-over

Video Poker Parlors

These gambling venues are small-scale and similar to pachinko parlors in Japan. Here, mostly South Korean men will play video poker on machines. If you don’t know, video poker is notoriously bad in terms of chances of winning.

These establishments are also similar to underground poker rooms and underground casinos in that they are notoriously wary to unknown visitors. They will often have lookouts and older men watching the door when someone walks in.

A typical video poker type parlor in Korea

This is because the legality of these establishments is in a grey area. They are officially classified as gaming centers, similar to a PC room. You are only paying for “entertainment”. However, under the table, there are implicit prize structures and payouts.

If you have experience with pachinko parlors in Japan, the parlor will give your winnings in tokens. You then take these tokens to a nearby “dealer”, who will then buy them from you. Of course, this token dealer works for the parlor.

In my personal opinion, these aren’t worth visiting. But they certainly are very interesting and represent the grey-area approach that Koreans take towards gambling in general.

Casinos in Korea

Casinos are by far the most foreigner-friendly establishments. They are clean, safe, well-managed, convenient, and family-friendly (as a casino can be).

First, a couple rules. There’s no smoking except in designated areas. Also, be sure you are at least 19 years old. Some younger foreigners (in my experience, US Army GIs and Airmen) get confused by this.

7luck-coex
7 Luck Casino at COEX Gangnam

All casinos in South Korea are a part of (or virtually next to) a nice hotel. The Hilton, Walkerhill, Hyatt, etc. Even Kangwon Land is connected to a very nice resort. You can expect that same standard of quality to extend to the casino you visit.

You can check out my individual casino review article here.

The three main casinos in Seoul are

In the meantime, here’s a general overview. A list of pros & cons to South Korean casinos.

Pros

  • Safe & Clean

While there are plenty of addicted gamblers in Korea, you won’t typically find them in South Korean casinos. This is because of the unique law that Korean citizens cannot gamble at Korean casinos (except Kangwon Land).

Habitual, destitute “degenerate” gamblers, as they’re affectionately known in the gambling community, are nowhere to be seen because the vast majority of gamblers are tourists and ALL are foreigners.

This means that most are well off economically already and aren’t permanent parts of the South Korean community. Of course, there are foreigner regulars.

  • Convenient

Again, the theme is that these casinos are for tourists. All of them are nearby travel hubs. Paradise Incheon is by Incheon airport. 7 Luck Hilton is nearby Seoul Station. All of the Jeju casinos target Chinese tourists.

The exception is Paradise Walkerhill, which is on top of a mountain in eastern Seoul. But they provide a free compliementary shuttle bus from Gangbyeon station, exit 2.

  • Good food

Don’t expect much regarding food compared to Las Vegas casinos and buffets. But the kicker here is the speed and convenience of the dining experience.

Meals are “free” but somehow I still paid hundreds!

Long ago, you used to be able to simply go into the casino restaurant and order anything in person. Obviously, people abused this. I would sometimes just stop by in order to get a gourmet meal!

They later changed it so you had to sit down and make a bet and use your membership card to limit how often you could eat.

Nonetheless, the food at Korean casinos is quite good, quickly prepared, and tastes amazing if you’re winning

  • Korean Dealers & Waitresses

If you’ve been in Asia, you know that people generally take good care of themselves, stay thin, and dress to impress. If you’ve flown Korean or Asiana Airlines, you also know what I’m talking about.

Korean casinos are no exception to this rule. Their customers are tourists, and that means the staff are a bit above average in looks.

This is most clearly seen at one place: Paradise Walkerhill Seoul.

Paradise Walkerhill is the only privately-owned casino in Seoul. As such, they can take a bit more liberty than 7 Luck, which is owned by the Korean government. This is seen in the waitresses and the entertainment

You wont’ see any dancing girls at government owned 7 Luck casino

Cons

As the Korean casino industry is so well-managed, you might not think too much of my Cons list if you’re a tourist or just casual gambler. If so, enjoy!

But if you are an experienced gambler, the following is just a heads up notice. None of them should dissuade you from visiting, however

  • Crowded

On weekends or Chinese holidays, expect huge massive lines, especially at low-stakes baccarat and roulette. Expect old Chinese men pushing into and past you. Expect bettors who can’t find a seat to be reaching over your shoulder for that pair bet. Yeah.

Crowded Casino in Seoul
  • Bad Table Stakes

In Blackjack, their insurance is lower than usual. In low-stakes Baccarat (less than $50 per bet), you cannot peel your own cards. The roulette wheel is double-green, not single. Blackjack reshuffles almost every 20 min. Worst of all, Texas Hold em poker has a rake of 10% up to a max of 15k won (I have an extensive Poker room review article her). And many other examples.

Don’t worry if you don’t know what I’m talking about here. The point is that it’s a sub-optimal gambling experience. But remember, if you’re a casual, don’t worry about it! Have a few drinks and make a few bets, then leave.

  • Small Size

This isn’t a huge complaint because the casinos are appropriately sized. But they are much smaller and less grand than their Vegas counterparts. You won’t feel a sense of awe when you go in.


No matter what your interest level is, total casual to hardcore gambler, there are plenty of options for you. If you’re casual, your best bet is Seoul Race Park or a casino. If you’re hardcore, stick to a casino with a poker room (See my Review of Poker rooms here).

If you’d like to know more, check out our Complete Guide to Gambling in Korea.

If you have any questions, please leave a comment below!

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