A gambling scandal is spreading throughout Korea’s showbiz industry as opportunities to place bets and wagers are increasingly available online

2013-11-13 17:11

Celebrities’ gambling

A gambling scandal is spreading throughout the nation’s showbiz industry as opportunities to place bets and wagers are increasingly available online.
Earlier this week, the prosecution accused a handful of celebrities of illegal online gambling. So far, five popular entertainers have been questioned for gambling big sums on sports betting websites. Among them are singers Tony An and Andy; top comedian Lee Soo-geun; and TV personalities Tak Jae-hoon and Lee Min-ho, better known by his stage name Boom.Whatever the reasons may be, it’s lamentable that celebrities who live mainly on popular support have become addicted to illegal gambling. The problem is all the more serious, given their far-reaching influence on youngsters. Online gambling is illegal in Korea except for one government-run sports site.
It’s nothing new for entertainers to fall foul of gambling. In June, comedian and TV host Kim Yong-man was given an eight-month jail term for illegal gambling, and in 2011, singers Sin Jung-hwan and Lee Sung-jin were sentenced to prison terms after being convicted on similar charges.
There are probably many reasons why celebrities indulge in gambling ― a shocking revelation is that nearly 70 percent of entertainers engage in illegal gambling. But some broadcasting insiders say celebrities tend to seek out “strong stimulation’’ because of the high levels of stress they experience caused by living in the spotlight. Others cite restrictions in their lifestyle, noting that their only outlet can be gambling, given that celebrities can’t drink too much and move about freely in public areas.
Against this background, illegal gambling has become all the rage these days. The police have apprehended 22 people who earned 900 billion won over two years by operating illegal gambling sites. They installed Internet servers in the United States and opened offices in China to lure local gambling operators. The Korea Institute of Criminology estimates the country’s illegal sports gambling market at 13-39 trillion won, compared with the 2 trillion won in the legitimate market.
What’s most worrisome is the emergence of online gambling as a result of the rapid penetration of the Internet and smartphones. Online gambling is all the more dangerous, considering that gamblers don’t’ need to visit casinos and show their faces.
Addiction is another serious problem. A survey conducted by the Prime Minister’s Office showed that gambling addicts in Korea account for 7.2 percent of the population, compared with 1.9 percent in the United Kingdom and 2.4 percent in Australia.
Clamping down on illegal gambling is not easy because gamblers rarely make voluntary reports even after they lose damaging sums of money, but it’s clear that it is a social evil that should be eradicated. What’s needed is for law enforcement to pursue illegal gambling operators and gamblers with all means available and penalize them as harshly as possible.

About bambooinnovator
Kee Koon Boon (“KB”) is the co-founder and director of HERO Investment Management which provides specialized fund management and investment advisory services to the ARCHEA Asia HERO Innovators Fund (www.heroinnovator.com), the only Asian SMID-cap tech-focused fund in the industry. KB is an internationally featured investor rooted in the principles of value investing for over a decade as a fund manager and analyst in the Asian capital markets who started his career at a boutique hedge fund in Singapore where he was with the firm since 2002 and was also part of the core investment committee in significantly outperforming the index in the 10-year-plus-old flagship Asian fund. He was also the portfolio manager for Asia-Pacific equities at Korea’s largest mutual fund company. Prior to setting up the H.E.R.O. Innovators Fund, KB was the Chief Investment Officer & CEO of a Singapore Registered Fund Management Company (RFMC) where he is responsible for listed Asian equity investments. KB had taught accounting at the Singapore Management University (SMU) as a faculty member and also pioneered the 15-week course on Accounting Fraud in Asia as an official module at SMU. KB remains grateful and honored to be invited by Singapore’s financial regulator Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) to present to their top management team about implementing a world’s first fact-based forward-looking fraud detection framework to bring about benefits for the capital markets in Singapore and for the public and investment community. KB also served the community in sharing his insights in writing articles about value investing and corporate governance in the media that include Business Times, Straits Times, Jakarta Post, Manual of Ideas, Investopedia, TedXWallStreet. He had also presented in top investment, banking and finance conferences in America, Italy, Sydney, Cape Town, HK, China. He has trained CEOs, entrepreneurs, CFOs, management executives in business strategy & business model innovation in Singapore, HK and China.

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