Contractor says unauthorized patrons weren't at gaming night
SEOUL — A contractor who ran a weekly gaming night at the United Nations Command compound said his company didn’t allow unauthorized patrons to attend despite a U.S. Forces Korea statement alleging that’s why they cut his contract last week.
News reports in the South Korean media alleging thousands of dollars changed hands between gamblers are also false, contended Tom Casey, a partner of CH International, the Korean-run company that ran the gaming night.
Players received winnings only in the form of non-cash prizes and gift certificates, he said.
“Nothing we have done has been illegal,” said the 65-year-old Rhode Island native. “We are not in charge of the gate.”
All gamers had to sign an agreement stating if they purchased chips, they couldn’t redeem them for cash, Casey said; they had to agree to redeem them only for prizes or gift certificates to the post exchange or a local department store.
USFK said in a statement last week it was investigating reports of “possible illegal gambling at a military fund raising event” at the UNC mess, a closed club perched on the UNC grounds near the Capital Hotel.
The contract was terminated because unauthorized persons were allowed into the venue and because the event exceeded its set hours, the statement said.
Since a commander’s investigation is under way, USFK had no comment Monday, Air Force Lt. Col. Deborah G. Bertrand, deputy public affairs office, wrote to Stars and Stripes.
Base legal officials OK’d a six-month trial gaming contract with the UNC mess that ran through Dec. 31, Casey said. That allowed his company to run a gaming night starting in July that included poker, roulette, three baccarat and four blackjack tables.
Newspapers misconstrued the operation as gambling, Casey said. Instead, the operation met the legal definition of gaming, Casey said.
Gaming is where the house keeps a percentage of buy-in money to play a game, such as poker and baccarat. The house kept 3 percent of every poker hand and between 3 percent to 5 percent from baccarat hands, Casey said.
Under Korean law, gaming is legal but gambling is not. As long as Korean people on the base are signed in properly, it is not illegal for them to game, he said. He estimated up to 60 people attended the last game night Oct. 25 and that about 25 of those were non-SOFA personnel.
Winners exchanged their chips for prizes or gift certificates, Casey said. Chips were valued at $5, $10 and $25, he said; a $100 chip was used only for change. The games ran from about 6 p.m. to around 3 a.m. on Saturday nights.
But, Casey said, his company could not regulate players choosing to sell their chips to other players or transferring their gift certificates to others.
“Now, if you take them chips and you go downtown or you go over here and sell them to your friend, how can we control that?” Casey said. Lawyers have advised that selling the gift certificates also would be considered not gambling but gaming, he said, and therefore legal.
The maximum bet was $25 but players could play as long as the gaming night ran, Casey said. When players finished, they could exchange chips for gift certificates from the post exchange if they were SOFA personnel. If they were Korean, they could exchange tokens for gift certificates from the Lotte Department store or prizes such as watches and bags bought on the local economy, he said.
In exchange for use of its mess, the UN mess received $1,800 in rent money for use of the club. To stage a game, Casey said he invests about $5,000, which included salaries for his employees, along with buying free food and free liquor for patrons.