Tuesday October 16,2012 : KOREAN ‘SOCIAL' INTERNET POKER HAS ITS RISKS
‘Moneymen' paid to lose
The publication Korea Joongang Daily explored the pitfalls of online social poker gambling over the weekend, detailing cases where players found themselves in difficulties even with the ‘virtual currency only’ rules.
The problem arises with players who want more virtual game ‘points' than the 300,000 won (around GBP168) a month they are allowed to legally purchase for cash in order to play.
It appears that an illegal ‘economy' has developed where players dubbed ‘moneymen' are paid by avid gamblers to deliberately lose so that their virtual points can be transferred to the purchaser, usually with a ten percent commission built into the transaction.
Billions of real money Korean won reportedly change hands in these deals.
And many players are now vying to accumulate game points purely to sell them to the ‘moneymen' who have illegally monetised this online poker system. The players can also sell their points to other players, which is also illegal.
Gamblers can buy virtual game points with a personal credit card through an account on the sites, but there is a limit to the amount. All Internet social ‘not for real money' gaming sites are regulated to limit accounts to 300,000 won per month.
In principle, operators like NHN, CJ E&M and Neowiz ban users from trading game points for cash and vice versa, classifying this as illegal. But in reality, the gaming industry estimates over 1,000 moneymen are making profits by exploiting overly-keen punters.
“Even a beginner in this job could easily earn around two million won a month,” one moneyman told Korea Joongang Daily. “I have seen cases in which some made over 100 million won a year.”
Posts advertising a lesson for 3.5 million won on how to become a moneyman are seen on bulletin boards of Internet business communities.
Moneymen carry the risk of jail time if caught; last month the authorities arrested a moneyman who had made 300 million won in commission from cash-for-game-points trading.
Social online poker is apparently big business for operators, with most taking a one percent rake on each hand, and Korean politician Cho Hae-jin of the ruling Saenuri Party claiming the profit share by the gaming companies accounts for 35-40 percent of the total profits of Korea’s gaming industry, delivering profit margins between 80 to 90 percent.