South Korea's prime minister apologized Tuesday for allowing
video gambling arcades to spread in a country where gaming is
The apology comes after a public outcry demanding the government
Last week, Prime Minister Han Myeong-sook ordered the closure of
thousands of video game parlors suspected of illegal gambling and
prosecutors began an investigation.
"I would like to offer my sincere apologies for the serious
damage to the livelihood of low-income earners by the nationwide
spread of speculative gaming," Han said before a cabinet meeting
She added the government might not have effectively managed its
regulatory responsibility in granting licenses to arcade
Prosecutors said they are investigating video arcade operators
featuring a game called "Sea Story" on suspicion it was an illegal
video slot machine.
Prosecutors are also investigating whether arcade operators
might have bribed public officials to approve licenses.
Arcades featuring "Sea Story", a video slot machine game with
nautical themes, are suspected of trying to skirt South Korean laws
by raising the payouts from their machines beyond legal limits,
After several arcade operators allegedly altered payouts, the
game grew in South Korea. Arcades featuring the game have
mushroomed around the country since starting two years ago.
All a player has to do is insert cash and watch sharks, whales and
other sea creatures spin and stop on the video screen.
Reports of the video game scandal have dominated South Korea's
media coverage over the past two weeks, in part because of the size
of the industry and possibility of corruption.
"Who made this country into a republic of gambling?" the
mainstream JoongAng Ilbo daily asked in an editorial last week.
Out of the country's 17 legal casinos, only one allows South
Korean nationals to gamble.
Arcades devoted to "Sea Story" had yearly sales of more than
US$15 billion, local media reported, and many of their customers
come from lower income brackets.
The government allows arcades to give out gift certificates that
can be exchanged for merchandise for people who play video slot and
poker machines. Kiosks can also exchange the gift certificates for
cash, after taking about a 10 percent commission.
(China Daily August 30, 2006)