Despite a heavy police clampdown on internet sports betting, illegal operators continue to service a massive demand
Despite a major clampdown by South Korean police the public demand for sports betting services continues to ensure good, if risky, business for illegal operators, the local publication JoongAng Ilbo reports in an article on the "ghost operators."
Sports Toto is the only licensed, and therefore legal, sports lottery in South Korea, but hardly the most popular sports gambling site, the publication notes, quoting police estimates that tens of thousands of gamblers participate on unauthorised sites in illegal gambling, making bets that add up to very significant amounts of money.
One of the attractions of illegal operators is that they offer more attractive odds and variety, and have less restrictions. For example, Sports Toto players can only bet a maximum of 1 million won ($908) on each game and have to pay tax on winnings, requirements which illegal sites circumvent in various ways, according to police investigators.
In support of its article, JoongAng Ilbo interviewed illegal operators within South Korea, who said that the business was lucrative but risky and stressful, requiring the use of offshore servers, bank accounts, phone numbers and domain switches on a regular basis to stay one step ahead of the police.
"These days, even the routers can't be traced," one boasted – a claim to some extent confirmed by police officials who admitted that in many cases successful illegal operators leave few if any tracks for police to follow.
Another operator said: "Illegal gambling site operators like me are running rampant. People are dying to do this job because it makes money. The site I'm operating right now opened just a month ago, but already its profits reached about 100 million won (almost a million US$)."
The police have warned Koreans who use illegal online sports betting sites that they have no protections against operators who decide to cheat them. They point to cases where illegal operators have simply shut up shop and disappeared without meeting their obligations to their players, and other dishonest behaviour that results in players being denied their winnings on spurious "terms and conditions" grounds.
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