A bigger baang

I’m not a big Stones fan, but I couldn’t resist the title. No, it’s not a typo: there really is such a thing as a baang, and baangs are big business in South Korea. From the Washington Post:

When a South Korean police squad cracked down on illegal computer gambling, they did it by literally smashing hard disc drives with hammers.

It took more than a dozen men and an excavator to destroy 670 computers seized from illegal Internet gambling salons in the southern city of Ulsan.

“There are more computers like that in our office waiting for disposal,” said Byeon Dong-ki, an officer at the Ulsan Police Agency.

South Korea’s myriad Internet cafes used to be a choice youth hangout in this ultra-wired country. The cafes soon became the cradle of the nation’s booming online gambling industry that now threatens to overwhelm video console games.

Just a few years ago, the cafes known as PC baangs were full of teenage boys slaying virtual beasts in the virtual universe of multiplayer online games, standing next to grown-ups staring intently at Asian checker screens, contemplating their next move.

Now the industry faces a formidable competitor — adults-only video casino bars, which are thriving across the country, where gambling is mostly illegal.

Only one of the country’s 17 legal casinos allows locals to gamble. Nevertheless, money-betting video games have mushroomed in recent years, first with virtual horse races and then video slot machines.

While no real cash is allowed to change hands, the government allowed gambling arcades a huge loophole by letting them give out “gift certificates,” which could then be easily exchanged for cash after payment of a 10 percent commission.

A boom soon followed amid suspicions that some operators had begun to unlawfully reprogram games to allow higher payouts and win more gamers.

“People come here for money, not for the fun,” said a young employee behind the counter at Whale Story, an adult game parlor in Seoul. “PC baangs are for kids,” said Park, who declined to be identified by his full name.

Arcades devoted to “Sea Story” reportedly had annual sales of more than $15 billion. The culture ministry also said that the value of gift certificates issued in South Korea over the past year totaled 30 trillion won ($31.5 billion).
South Korea Web cafes take hit from video gambling – washingtonpost.com

First of all, remember that this is a country where there are professional Starcraft players. You read that right–this article talks about the game’s popularity there. So there’s definitely an appetite for video gambling. Combine that with the seemingly-inherent human urge to gamble, and you can see why gambling baangs would be big business.

I’ll come clean–I just get a kick out of writing “baang.” I’m visualizing it as a Batman TV-show style graphic.

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