A top broadcaster Lee Soo-geun and a former idol singer Tony An have been heavily criticized by the public for gambling hundreds of millions of won on sports gambling sites back in 2013. Due to this national scandal, the two celebrities did not appear on TV for at least six months. Even after they served the penalty, the public did not welcomethem with open arms. Must gambling be prohibited by law? Does not an individual have complete autonomy regarding where they spend their own money?
Gambling is strictly illegal for Koreans. However, it is ironic that there are up to 18 legally registered casinos in Korea, yet its very own citizens are not permitted to pass through their gates. Korea considers gambling as a crime against social interests, categorized under the same branch as adultery and drug offenses. The government claims that once gambling becomes widespread, social morality can be disrupted. If this argument is to have any validity, then violent online games—where gamers become addicted to the point they cannot distinguish between the real world and virtual reality that they inflict violence on real people—should also be prohibited by law.
Humans always have the insatiable urge to desire something they cannot have. Gambling itself by nature cannot be considered bad, but the opponents of the legalization of gambling claim there is always the possibility it can be taken advantage of by criminal organizations or fraud. Currently, many swindlers oversee arranging these black markets, and there is simply no law that protects people who become bankrupt due to participating in illicit gambling. Countless frauds have now targeted those insolvent victims from gambling away all their savings. Some deceiving advertisements give false hope to the victims that they can one day regain all their savings if they make additional deposits. Yet, the victims are in a state of mental turmoil from already losing all their money, leaving them unable to make prudent decisions and giving rise to a vicious cycle.
Since these illicit gambling joints are usually run by criminal organizations, gamblers are exposed to severe danger withabsolutely zero illegal protection. Hence, if the government takes responsibility and places gambling under the auspices of the law, it will allow the jurisdiction to protect Korean gamblers with more ease. By increasing transparency in the malicious gambling market, the government can effectually protect those vulnerable victims. There seems to be no single reason why gambling shouldbe forbidden by law, especially when legalizing gambling will allow unforeseen benefits to gush through.
A government institute established in 2013 to monitorgamblers' habits, Korea Center on Gambling Problems (KCGP), cannot be the ultimate solution to gambling addiction, as it is facing opposition from the non-gambling taxpayers. Just like how taxes from cigarettes are used to treat pathological smokers, by setting up a separate government agency funded by tax money obtained from those who choose to gamble, more effective therapy institutes can be established, making it easier to supervise gambling activity under close watch.
Although KCGP has been active for more than three years, many Koreans are not even aware of their presence or the services it offers. Judging by this, there is a need for the government to reach out to its citizens to promote this well meaning organization. Nowadays, countless minors are being caught on the Web and prosecuted for illegal gambling. Perhaps KCGP can design special programs that provide prevention and treatment sessions for adolescent gamblers.
Gambling, an activity that is not barred in other advanced nations such as Japan or Australia, is not a social evil in itself. Most citizensengage in gambling for its social benefits as well as the pursuit ofentertainment. Of course, several precautions should be in place before diving into the unfamiliar world of gambling. Yet it does raise thequestion of whether gambling is a crime that must be prohibited by legislation. Although there are negative consequences of gambling, if brought under government control, the gambling industry can bemade more transparent and manageable. Through the legalization of gambling, the Korean society should be able to relish many unexpected advantages both economically and socially.