On March 13, just days before the World Poker Tour was scheduled to host a WPT National event in South Korea, WPT officially announced its cancellation due to “factors beyond our control.” The short but concise notice read, in part, “Several major airline carriers have suspended air travel in the region. In the best interest of our players, the event will no longer be taking place.”
As part of the WPT National tour, the Korea event was to welcome players from March 17 to 21 at the Paradise Casino at the Jeju Grand Hotel, now called Maison Glad. Located in Gwangjang-dong in Gwangjin-gu, the Jeju Island area of South Korea is a beautiful tourist destination. And since the WPT National tour boasts of such locations as Madrid, Barcelona, Cannes, Marrakech, San Remo, Brussels, Vilamoura, and Vienna, Jeju was another of the fabulous poker locales perfect for a combination of poker and sightseeing.
However, the current state of the world puts some tourist destinations directly in the line of potential danger. Political hotspots are not just in places like Iran, Syria, and North Korea, as other countries feel the fallout and are parts of political struggles and threats. South Korea and its obvious position south of the volatile North Korea puts it in the line of fire of all of its many enemies.
Paradise Casino in Danger?
The location of Paradise Casino on Jeju Island is not so much in danger as are airports in the area. However, the entire region is in conflict as tensions have recently escalated between South and North Korea, which also involves China and the United States.
Earlier in March, the beginnings of a missile defense system arrived at Osan Air Base in South Korea, courtesy of the US. The system will be called the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) and serve to protect South Korea from its angry enemy to the north, as North Korea has been escalating its testing of ballistic missiles. In response to the building of THAAD, China has made its opposition known as a friend of North Korea. A Chinese spokesperson warned that it will protect its own security interest and “the US and South Korea must bear the potential consequences.”
In the days that followed, the US and South Korea were joined by Japan in sending ships to the area into which the recent North Korean missiles were fired. This time, the Chinese Foreign Ministry upped his threatening language to urge an end to the actions to avoid “a vicious cycle that could spiral out of control.”
With all of that, airlines in the area chose to take preventative measures and keep their airplanes out of the way of any “potential consequences.” Several China-based airlines stopped services to key areas, including Jeju and other nearby provinces, and other international airlines are taking note and considering their flights to the area as well.
China. South Korea: Some flights suspended between countries from 15MAR bco 'worsening relations' – Jin Air, Eastar Jet and Spring Airlines— Travel Watch – APAC (@BCDapac) March 10, 2017
What Other Poker Stops May Be Affected?
An upcoming stop in the area seems to be organized by the APT (Asian Poker Tour), which is set to go to the same Paradise Casino on Jeju Island from March 22-28. However, there have been no notices or announcements from the APT about any cancellation, which means that players must face their own travel interruptions and dangers if they so choose.
Interestingly, the APT did cancel the March 22-30 stop at the Daegu Casino in the nearby Gyeongsang province. The notice came on March 1 when the government abruptly closed the casino for one month for March 10 through April 10, 2017.
[Official Announcement] APT Daegu 2017 cancelled Due to Daegu Casino Closurehttps://t.co/mBacVA2JjJ— Poker ポーカー Now (@poker_ing) March 1, 2017
The WPT National series heads to Western Europe for the next several months, and the only other major poker events in the Asia-Pacific region are limited to the Philippines and Macau. Both areas are surrounded by potential danger and involve some travel risks, but there are no specific threats to those areas at this time.
PokerStars and PartyPoker are headed to Sochi in the coming weeks and months. There are no particular threats to that tourist destination in Russia, but increasing friction between the US and Russia creates an uncomfortable situation at the very least. President Putin’s administration has sent mixed messages about gambling in Russia, specifically internet gambling, but live poker in Sochi is likely safe.
Poker players take risks every day, though most of those risks are financial and involve hands instead of lives. New poker destinations are exciting and attractive for a variety of reasons, but players should be keenly aware of world events before taking those kinds of chances.