Younger South Korean gamblers might be out of luck if a bill being considered by the country’s parliament finds enough support. Last week, legislation was submitted to the South Korean National Assembly that would raise the minimum age for entry into casinos from its current level of 19 to 21.
Kim Kwang-soo of the country’s Party for Democracy and Peace, along with nine other lawmakers, are backing the bill, which they say is necessary to help curb gambling addiction. It seeks to make changes to two articles of the Tourism Promotion Act (TPA)—Articles 22 and 28—and would, if approved, apply to all casinos that are licensed under the TPA.
The changes don’t have wide-reaching implications for the nation’s youth, but could cause frustration among international gamblers. South Korea has 17 casinos, of which one, Kangwon Land, is open to South Korean gamblers. The others are strictly foreigner-only casinos.
Supporters of the bill assert that the changes are needed because there has been a rise in gambling addiction among South Korea’s youth. They point out that an age limit of 21 is similar to what is seen in Macau and Singapore, as well as in other popular gaming destinations throughout Asia.
Given that Kangwon Land has a significant amount of local traffic, it stands to suffer the most by the new regulation. The project has already suffered from weaker revenue, with 2018 profit falling 32.1% year-on-year. Of that drop, 8.3% was attributable to a decline in revenue from gaming operations. Losing part of its potential customer base could lead to continued declines in 2019 and beyond.
Kangwon Land faced a considerable amount of bad publicity over the past couple of years. There have been reports of corruption and embezzlement and, in one case, former CEO Ham Seung-hee was eventually sentenced to three years in prison for his crimes. That came following the arrest of another former CEO, Choi Heung-jip, last year on charges of influence peddling.
The Korea Casino Association is now reportedly considering trying to fight the bill and could introduce an opposing opinion to the country’s National Assembly in order to try to prevent the minimum age from being raised.