Authorities in South Korea are threatening to impose life sentences on the operators of illegal online gambling sites and to press charges against all the sites’ customers.
On Friday, South Korean police officials announced a harsh new attitude towards online gambling operators. A National Police Agency spokesman told South Korean media that illegal operators would now be slapped with organized crime charges, which carry significantly higher penalties for convictions.
Previously, illegal online gambling operators were subject to charges of opening an illegal gambling place, which carried a maximum sentence of seven years in prison and a KRW 70m (US $61k) fine. Under the new plan, site operators would be charged with ‘organizing a criminal group,’ which carries the possibility of life behind bars.
Police said the shift was appropriate, as many of the illegal gambling sites they take down are found to be run by organized crime rings. Software programmers and site managers would be labeled accomplices while web hosting services that knowingly accept business from gambling sites will be charged as abettors.
Police are also looking to discourage traffic to gambling sites by boosting penalties for gamblers. South Korean law already stipulates punishments for gamblers whose activity is considered ‘habitual’ or whose wagers are larger than average, but the Korea Times quoted a prosecution official saying the authorities will now “charge all gamblers without exceptions, regardless of how often they gamble or how much money they bet.”
Outside of law and order types, the only people likely to be celebrating South Korea’s new get-tough approach are the online gambling operators arrested last week by South Korean authorities. The Korea Herald reported that the ring allegedly handled KRW 16b ($140m) in wagers over the past four years, which would likely put them in the upper echelon of the country’s illegal operators. Obviously, nobody likes getting arrested, but if you’re going to get caught, might as well do it before the price goes up.