Korean venture clouded by police action

Seven operators at the Korean unit of Mansion.com, an international online casino and sports betting site, have been detained for operating an illegal gambling Web site for Koreans, local police revealed last week.

Mansion.com is the kit sponsor of Tottenham Hotspur, an English professional football club in the Premier League.

The Korea Times reports that the detentions represent a new phase in police action against online gambling in Korea, the first time that an international online game company has been legally implicated for opening Korean operations to handle marketing, exchanges of cyber money and other facilities for online gambling. So far, Koreans have gained access to gambling sites whose servers are based in foreign countries, the newspaper reports.

The Seoul Metropolitan Police Agency said that more than 2 700 Koreans have gambled on the site, with the total cash taken in estimated at about 30 billion won. Police are investigating some 70 of the players who deposited more than 50 million won ($33 000) each at the site.

The newspaper reports that Mansion.com established a unit Mansion88 in Singapore, and the Singaporean unit oversaw the Korean operations. The Korean venture was established after Mansion signed a contract to lease 13 gambling sites from the international online casino. Police claim the operators have reaped 4 billion won in illegal gains. The largest amount of money deposited by a member for gambling stood at 500 million won.

Police told the Korea Times that workplaces were established in southern Seoul to provide cyber money to gamblers and send promotional messages to potential members starting in December 2007. Cell phones and bank accounts under "borrowed" names were used. Police said they intend to trace the flow of the illegal money and profits. Unregistered online gambling sites are illegal in Korea.

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