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Golf Betting: Is It Gambling?

Posted February. 21, 2005 22:14,   


Based on a so-called, “stroke style”-

Previously setting one’s own handicaps, Mr. Lee and others played golf, betting their stakes according to the difference between handicaps and real strokes. As a result, from December 2002 to May last year, they technically were involved in golf gambling worth 800 million won in 32 matches, and were indicted for the charge of gambling.

Different from previous court rulings-

Until now, the court has punished those involved in large-sum bets in golf as gamblers. In particular, the Supreme Court confirmed its original judgment and convicted Chairman Park Soon-suk of the Shin-An Group on a charge of betting in golf amounting to a billion won 10 times in 2003. The court ruled he was guilty of a constant gambling crime.

One judge of the Supreme Court said, “The Supreme Court has consistently applied the crime of gambling for large-sum golf betting.”

At issue is whether it is possible for the higher court to change previous precedent rulings, starting with this ruling as a turning point.

Most judges said it was not likely, considering court rulings and legalistic interpretations on the crime of gambling.

Luck determines the ruling-

Criminal Law 246 stipulates, “Those who gambled with their wealth are to be fined or penalized less than five million won (with severe punishment for constant gambling).“ Here, it is interpreted that precedents and scholarly writings refer to “gambling” as determining either gains or losses from accidental winning by betting on wealth.

Thus, the core of the crime of gambling is “the luck of winning” Judge Lee said the most important reasoning in ruling golf betting as innocent is that there is no luck involved here. He said, “Different from a casino or the Korean card game of whatoo, golf is a sport whose winning is determined by the players’ skills and capacity.”

“In particular, ‘If golf betting is a gamble, the ‘Skins’ game is also a gamble as its rewards are determined depending on the results of each hole in professional golf. If players like Se-ri Park and Grace Park played with their wealth bet, they would be convicted of the crime of gambling.”

However, the Supreme Court’s precedents and doctrines are different: “as long as a small possibility is seen in winning a game, even if it affects the result of a player, it is a gambling.”

Accordingly, in cases where betting on the results of games like Korean checkers or paduk, chess, and mahjong, players are guilty of the crime of gambling. However, exceptions are made according to Criminal Law Article 246, Clause One that if the value of the betting money or stakes is small, they are called “one-time games.”

Meanwhile, in some countries like Germany, based on the rules to determine winners in gambling, the meaning of gambling is different according to two cases. The former refers to cases where victory or defeat has nothing to do with the players, like watchers of games as in Korean wrestling and boxing. On the other hand, the latter refers to cases in which the players are involved in the gambling, as in chess and mahjong.

The criminal laws in Germany only punish those involved in the latter case, and golf betting belongs to, in a way, the latter. The Korean version does not distinguish between the two, punishing those involved in the two with the same regulations.

In light of this, the crime of gambling, according to many experts, is not to be applied to the large-sum golf betting.

Last year, Judge Lee grabbed attention by ruling innocent a military-service avoider due to conscientious reasons in the preliminary ruling, but this ruling was annulled by a higher court.

Soo-Hyung Lee Ji-Won Jun sooh@donga.com podragon@donga.com