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New Locals' Casino Brings Problems to Korean Community

8 November 2000

SEOUL, South Korea – Nov. 8, 2000 -- Barely a week has passed since South Korea's first casino for locals opened in the former mining town of Chongsun, Kangwon Province, and problems are already cropping up, the Korea Herald reported.

Local residents as well as cash-laden customers from afar are swarming the gambling complex, the newspaper said.

The government originally allowed the construction of a casino to help the local government and residents make ends meet after closing the mines in the town, officials said. The number of nearby residents frequenting the casino, however, has risen sharply for the past few days, they said.

"Some people drop by the casino as part of their routine get- together," a local official told the Herald.

The situation has become so worrisome that the municipal government is considering introducing rules that will bar local residents from visiting the casino more than once per month and evict people branded "gambling addicts" by their families, he said.

Other inhabitants complained about having to play host to too many friends and relatives traveling to their town. They say that they are subjected to a constant barrage of requests to buy entrance tickets, book hotel rooms or even lend money to losing friends.

Originally intended to revive the ailing mining village, the casino built by Kangwon Land Corp. was expected to contribute to regional growth by providing jobs and boosting the economy. The Korean people's repressed penchant for gambling has compounded the problem.

Already, there are stories of gamblers who lost up to 80 million won ($70,300) over the past five days. Some taxi drivers from nearby towns lost 30 million won by selling off their vehicles to private moneylenders. The games, which are supposed to be played as light entertainment, have turned into a desperate struggle among visitors dying to hit the jackpot, the newspaper said.

Last Friday, a man in his 50s made a scene at the entrance of the casino after losing 100 million won in just one day, the Herald reported.

Another ill effect of the new complex is the increased presence of organized gangsters and loan sharks, two elements that exist wherever there is money and pleasure, the Herald reported.

"Concerns are also growing that the area could turn into a hotbed of other crimes, including drug abuse, prostitution, burglary and frequent traffic mishaps," the Herald reported.

Reflecting such concerns, Lee Moo-young, commissioner general of the National Policy Agency, flew to the casino aboard a helicopter Monday to make a surprise inspection of public peace and order in and around the area.

"The staff of the casino, in close cooperation with the police, should ensure that this area becomes as crime-free as Las Vegas in the United States," Lee told local officials, the Herald reported.

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