2008: For over a decade, the U.S.
military has had slot machines on bases, as one of the many recreational
activities available to the troops. Until recently, several thousand slot
machines generated $100 million annually for local base Morale, Welfare and
Recreation (MWR) funds. This buys amenities for the troops, everything from
swimming pools to gyms and live entertainment. But while the average slot
machine spending on some bases was over $100 a month per soldier, it's long
been known that about two percent of the troops are likely to become gambling
addicts. The military even established a gambling rehab center in California
(since closed), to deal with the problem cases. Of course, the troops with
potential gambling addiction problems will eventually find other outlets, and
the military expects the troops to develop, and exercise, discipline for things
like that. But putting slots on base was considered unseemly by many
dirty little secret about base slots is that lots of locals, especially in
countries that don't have legal slots, were getting to these machines, and
spending lots of money. Troops can either bring in guests, or those running the
base gambling locations don't check ID. So when American bases in South Korea
were ordered to check ID on those entering facilities with slot machines,
revenue declined by 50 percent. This new policy was in response to Congress
threatening to remove all the slot machines. South Korea is a major source of
revenue for slots ($79,000 a year from each of its 927 slot machines). The
military slots pay out 95 percent of the money put into the machines, meaning
that players put over $1.5 million into each of those South Korean slot
machines last year. Half of that was apparently coming from South Koreans.
where it gets even more interesting. Seems the troops, and South Koreans
working on the base, were accepting fees from South Koreans to take them into
the gambling facilities as "guests," or simply providing documents needed to
get on the base. Some of the troops and
South Korean base employees would also do a little loan sharking, loaning money
to tapped out South Korean gamblers.
is nothing new or unique in South Korea. Ever since U.S. troops first entered
South Korea after World War II, the goodies available on American bases created
a lucrative black market, run by South Korean crooks and greedy American
troops. Both were frequently caught, and for the military, this activity
provided a large portion, often the majority, of courts martial in South Korea.
gambling addiction is a problem for some troops, there are many more ways to
get into trouble in South Korea, and many of them pay much better.