Seoul police break up South Korea’s largest ring of illegal gambling dens

south-korea-illegal-gambling-bustAuthorities in South Korea’s capital Seoul have broken up what they’re calling the largest illegal gambling operation uncovered to date.

On Wednesday, the Seoul Metropolitan Police Agency announced they’d raided seven apartments in the southern part of the city that housed illegal gambling operations. In the process, police arrested seven gang members while 69 other staffers and 11 gamblers were booked without being detained.

Police said the operation had begun in 2011, with the illegal gambling parlors disguised as business offices to throw off suspicion. The cautious organizers reportedly shifted their locations every two or three months in a further bid to avoid detection.

One staffer told police that the ring controlled 70% of all illegal gambling dens in Seoul. At its peak, the operation is said to have handled wagers totaling KRW 14b (US $12m) per day and the gang reportedly earned profits of KRW 30b ($25.6m) since 2011.

Police identified a 39-year-old man named Yoon as the ringleader, while a 32-year-old woman named Ahn was in charge of finances. Police said the business was well-organized, with detailed operating budgets and security and marketing teams. Yoon conducted regular meetings at which he would relay management guidelines to underlings, and the ring even held team-building outings for staff.

The ring largely catered to small-time gamblers. To keep regretful patrons from ratting them out, the ring had a policy of ensuring that gamblers who lost their entire bankroll were given enough money to cover cab fare home. If police managed to take down one gambling den, the ring would temporarily halt all its operations to minimize the potential for followup raids.

Casino-style gambling is mostly illegal for South Korean nationals, who aren’t welcome in 16 of the country’s current 17 small-scale casinos. Only Kangwon Land, located in a remote mountainous area around 200km east of Seoul, allows local residents to darken its doors.