▲ Jeju is certainly no Macau, but there are gambling options on the island. Photo courtesy Daniel J. Prostak
Koreans love a gamble! So much so that the government tries to stop them for their own good! Stories of illicit gambling among monks and footballers suggest the prohibition is not entirely successful, and any visit to the horseracing shows that where it is allowed it is thoroughly indulged.
Article 246 of the the Criminal Act is seemingly a hangover from Korea’s more authoritarian days, yet it remains remains active and occasionally enforced. Entertainer Shin Jung-hwan even received a custodial sentence in 2011 for gambling in the Philippines and avoiding police investigation.
Although exceptions are made for activities such as racing and lotteries, Koreans are only officially allowed to enter one casino on the planet - Kangwon Land in Gangwon Province. This makes the casino a forbidden fruit for most Koreans.
Thankfully, the law doesn’t apply to foreigners, which makes a visit to the casino even more appealing for international residents. So, if you’re looking to put it all on red, play for high stakes with rich Chinese businessmen, or just have a few drinks on the house, then a night at the Paradise Casino is for you.
▲ It all depends on whether your chips are up or down. Photo courtesy Logan Ingalls from South Boston, MA, USA
Attached to the Grand Hotel, at the aptly named Grand Hotel “sageori” (junction) in Shin Jeju, you’ll find the entrance situated at the south end of the grandiose hotel lobby, underneath a refreshingly concise sign that reads: “CASINO.”
Once inside, whether a high roller or small bettor, you shouldn’t have trouble finding a place to park your chips. The most popular game is baccarat, with a minimum bet of 10,000 won, but you can also try your luck at roulette, blackjack, or if you favour electronic games over live action, there’s a wide variety of tempting slot machines.
The smallest bets are usually placed on roulette, where players often just wager a few thousand won at a time. Conversely, at the baccarat tables, players regularly bet hundreds of thousands, or even millions, on single hands.
No need to worry if you aren’t comfortable gambling in Korean, as the casino can easily accommodate English speakers. Casino staff, including the dealers and bartenders, speak several languages, and many speak English fluently. Reflecting the source of most custom, Mandarin and Japanese are the languages heard most often, however.
▲ Glamor and riches are among the promises - and cliches - that casinos tantalize punters with. Photo courtesy Ramada Casino
On top of being accustomed to international customers, the support staff and other general personnel are all exceedingly friendly and welcoming. The mood at the tables is also jovial, as there’s plenty of chatter and jokes amongst the players. That’s not to say they aren’t concerned with the outcomes of their bets though, as many are serious gamblers who enthusiastically celebrate wins, and dramatically rue losses.
The casino’s general ambiance is a mixture of gaiety and austerity, as the customers are equally concerned with having a good time and the amount of money they’re spending. The gaming floor is immaculate, crisp and well lit, and the lounge is comfortable, and both, as you might imagine, accentuate gambling.
In between bets, you’ll be encouraged to enjoy complimentary beverages such as beer, whiskey, and other alcoholic drinks, as well as milk, bottled water, coffee, or soda for non-alcoholic options. Players typically leave the tables and head up to the lounge where the bar is located when they want to take a break and have a drink, as servers do not come around to take orders on the game floor. The casino doesn’t have its own food menu, however, for those lucky enough to enjoy VIP status, they’ll order in takeout free of charge.
So, if you’re feeling lucky, head down the Paradise Casino. Whether just want to play a little and have a few drinks, or if you’re going to throw it down and let it ride, you’ll find the game for you at this gambler’s paradise.
ⓒ Jeju Weekly 2009 (http://www.jejuweekly.com)
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