Lottery activity in South Korea surged in 2016 despite, or because of, a souring economy.
Official lottery figures won’t released until February, but Monday brought the release of a survey by the Korea Lottery Commission under the Ministry of Strategy and Finance, which showed nearly 56% of participants purchased at least one lottery product in 2016. Lotto, the country’s most popular lottery product, reported sales rising 9% in 2016 to KRW 3.55t (US $3b), a new record.
Lottery participation among those making less than KRW 2m (US $1,700) per month nearly doubled to 10.2%, which critics are already slamming as an indication of the lottery preying on those with the least discretionary income.
However, Ministry officials said there was “no proven correlation between economic slowdowns and lottery sales,” and the figures showed the highest lottery participation rate (52.1%) among individuals in the highest economic bracket (over KRW 4m/month) and the second-highest participation (24.1%) among those making between KRW 3m-4m.
Slightly less than 30% of participants reported playing the lottery once a month, while around 21% played every week. But around 90% of lottery players spend less than KRW 10k ($8.50) each time they purchase lottery products.
Asked why they play the lottery, 41.6% said they liked the fact that lottery revenue went to help less fortunate members of Korean society, while 30.6% said the lottery offered them expectations of hope and 17% said it was simply a form of entertainment.
LOTTERIES VIEWED MORE FAVORABLY THAN CASINOS
Koreans hold a more favorable view of their lotteries than other forms of gambling. Asked whether lotteries were speculative, 14.8% of participants agreed. That number surged to 91.5% when applied to betting on horseraces, while 93.5% found casino gambling to be associated with a higher risk of loss.
Kangwon Land is the only one of South Korea’s 17 casinos that allows local residents to gamble, but the casino was recently the subject of a highly unflattering Bloomberg article that focused on gambling addicts in the communities surrounding the mountain resort.
Kangwon Land acknowledges that there are around 500 current residents of the nearby town of Sabuk who are homeless as a result of gambling losses. According to a 2016 survey of 300 local problem gamblers by Kwandong University, the average ‘casino panhandler’ is a male in his fifties who formerly lived in Seoul but now can’t leave Sabuk due to his gambling losses.
In its defense, Kangwon Land’s supporters point out that the casino – which was launched to boost the local economy following the closure of a mining operation – has contributed over KRW 6t ($5.1b) in tax revenue since it opened in 2000 and the resort also provides most of the jobs in the local communities.
Kangwon Land is preparing new ‘cooling off’ measures to deal with problem gambling activity, including banning entry for up to three months for individuals who can’t control their wagering.