South Korea’s gambling industry continues to defy the odds, despite the economic downturn the country is facing.
For the second year in a row, the gambling sector grew 7.7 percent to reach KRW20.3 trillion (USD17.6 billion) in 2016 from a year earlier, according to The National Gambling Control Commission. The figures include revenues from Gangwon Land, cycle racing, horse racing, boat racing and sports promotion voting right system, or Sports Toto.
The nation’s casinos earned the lion’s share of 2016’s gambling revenue, reporting KRW28.04 billion (USD24.21 million)—a jump from the KRW20.5 trillion reported in 2015. Foreigners-only casinos contributed KRW1.2 trillion, while state-run Gangwon Land reported KRW1.7 trillion in sales.
Sales of lottery tickets also grew 9.3 percent on-year to reach KRW3.9 trillion as lottery participation among those making less than KRW2 million (USD1,700) per month nearly doubled to 10.2%.
Meanwhile the Korea Racing Authority earned KRW7.7 trillion from its horse-racing business, up 0.2 percent from a year earlier. The Korea Sports Promotion Foundation saw cycling race sales gain 1.7 percent on-year to a four-year high of KRW1.9 trillion.
Experts chalked up the domestic gambling industry’s boom time to the growing number of people who are turning to speculative games amid the economic downturn.
“Due to economic depression, people tend to dream of making a fortune at one stroke,” Kwak Geum-joo, a psychology professor at Seoul National University, told Yonhap news agency. “It is necessary to boost social mobility in order to reduce such sentiments.”
By April, South Korea’s casino sector will get additional boosts with the opening of Paradise City. Jointly-owned casino operator Paradise Co Ltd and Japanese pachinko operator Sega Sammy Holdings Inc, Paradise City is said to be the first large-scale, foreigner-only gaming resort in the country.