At Weird World Wire we LOVE hitting some of the quirkier things in life and it does not get much quirky than gambling in North Korea.
Gambling and communism
Gambling tends to be heavily frowned upon by communists. I mean just the very concept of flipping a card to become very wealthy was not exactly what Marx was on about when he wrote Das Kapital.
Ironically Cuba was being set up as a place where lots of casinos would be built, kinda like Las Vegas, but then Fidel Castro took power and Cuba is not exactly like Vegas. Well perhaps aside from the hookers…..
Other communist states followed suit and gabling was banned in the Soviet Union, Vietnam, and China.
This has meant that smart cookies like the Cambodians have filled the border towns of both Thailand (not communist) and Vietnam (kinda communist) with a bunch of casinos. Although they are not doing all that well since the closure of borders, aside from the hookers.
China and gambling
The Peoples Republic of China banned all naughty things like prostitution and gambling when they came to power, but the only problem is that the Chinese really like a flutter. The only place in “China” where gambling is permitted is the autonomous region of Macau. Macao actually turns over a lot more money than Vegas due to to Chinese gamblers, but literally without any of the glitz.
Thing of all the fun stuff Vegas has, well Macau has none of that (except the hookers). The business there is gambling. That is it.
The North Korean casino scene
North Korea might well be the most communist of the communists today, but they are also very pragmatic and realizing that Chinese people really like gambling decided they needed a bit of the action!
The first casino was a run by a Dandong company and is situated on the lower floor of the Yanggakdo Hotel. You know the one on the island that people call Alcatraz?
To read about the Gak click here.
This place has not been without controversy, with one employee who had apparently been stealing chips getting suicided by jumping from a window. He had obviously not seen movie classic that is casino. Don’t fuck with casino people.
The Imperial Hotel and Casino
But! The small boring affair at the foot of the Yanggakdo Hotel has ZERO on the Imperial Hotel and Casino. It was allegedly owned previously by the Emperor Group of Hong Kong, but they say they don’t own it anymore. We are not going to argue WE HAVE seen the Casino.
The Imperial Hotel and Casino is located in the main SEZ of North Korea/ SEZ means special economic zone, so like you can kinda do capitalist things easier here, like say a casino. A bit like the Macao of North Korea, without the hookers.
To read about the Rason SEZ click here.
It is probably the most luxurious hotel in North Korea and works on an almost extra-territorial basis. Most of the staff are Chinese and again it has not come without controversies. There are stories abound of Chinese politicians blowing the peoples money, debts being paid with Hummers (the cars not the other kind), and all other manner of stories that are enough to make you feel all Martin Scorcesse.
The clients are mainly Chinese, as one might well expect, with the odd Russian thrown in for good measure. It has a private beach and is for all intents a luxury resort, of sorts…….
It is also for serious gamblers and just to step foot inside you need to exchange 500 Euro of chips just to walk through the door. No penny slots here baby.
And if you fancy yourself as the quintessential gambler you can now do a gabling tour to the Imperial Hotel and Casino in Rason. Vegas it is not, but luck is luck whoever you are.
Check out the itinerary here.