State contingents and local councils are working together to wipe out illegal gambling in Malaysia.
Malaysia is known for a lot of things around the world, including its illegal gambling rings. Local gambling news are regularly reporting on police raids and new campaigns to crack down on illegal betting groups, but somehow they keep proliferating.
The latest efforts to put an end to unlawful casino operations included a nationwide, week-long blitz on underground dens. Unfortunately, the operation had a low success rate of just 2%, which lead officers to believe that someone is tipping off the targets.
According to police data, only 168 of the 9,663 raids were successful, meaning they ended in suspects being picked up and gambling equipment being seized. “The ones that we were successful at raiding were those trying their luck and hoping to escape us,” officials said.
Illegal gambling thrives in Malaysia
Malaysian gambling laws are very restrictive. While casino games, slot machines, lottery tickets and horse racing are all legal, other forms of sports betting are not. A single sportsbook license was issued in 2010, in an attempt to revive this industry, but authorities soon revoked it.
And while casino games are allowed, the country has only one brick-and-mortar gambling venue – a large resort operated by Genting – where locals are allowed to play. And of course, not everyone has the financial resources to travel to the Titiwangsa Mountains regularly just to go to a casino, so illegal gambling dens started to pop up. And then they spread uncontrollably.
Internet gambling is also forbidden in the country, and state authorities have even taken measures to make sure that local players don’t use foreign-based websites. But with the online gambling industry growing worldwide, it was only a matter of time before criminal syndicates started setting up their own illegal Malaysian online betting websites.
Even with the risk of being prosecuted, some people open venues disguised as internet cafes, where they allow customers to access internet casinos and charge them a lot of money for it.
Police suspects moles tipped off criminals
With so much illegal betting going on in the country, the latest anti-gambling operation – code-named Ops Dadu – is just one of many.
The operation’s surprisingly low success rate has caused authorities to become suspicious, thinking that an inside source may have tipped criminals off. Many of the raided gambling joints were found closed and could not be searched because police officers need a warrant before they go in.
Federal Secret Societies, Gambling and Vice Division (D7) Principal Assistant Director Senior Asst Comm Roslee Chik told reporters: “We are cooperating with local councils and obtaining court warrants to raid these premises. We are going all out to curb illegal gambling in the country.”
During the second phase of a special operation in Selangor, where police raided a warehouse in Ara Damansara, ended with authorities seizing around 5,000 slot machines and computers. The equipment was worth more than RM10 million. Police said the warehouse was being used to store computers, which would later be turned into slot machines.
Officers arrested six men during a raid this Tuesday, and two of them were Indian nationals. SAC Roslee told reporters that authorities had been monitoring the syndicate’s activity for about a month. The supervisor was caught and arrested, but police has yet to find the mastermind of the illegal operation.
A long-term war on illegal gambling
While there has been a lot of talk about police intensifying their efforts to put an end to illegal gambling, Malaysia is still home to hundreds of such operations.
Roslee denied allegations that authorities have failed to act against criminal betting syndicates. He said that 18,099 suspects were caught in the last month alone. In 2013, the Malaysian police arrested 25,242 people and in 2012, more than 32,100 suspects were caught. More than 141,000 slot machines and computers – worth about RM 70 million – were seized so far this year. Last year, police confiscated just 90,114 machines.
“We have always acted against illegal gambling syndicates. Those who leveled allegations against us are simply lying,” Roslee said.
In Johor Baru, the state police conducted 8,464 raids since January. According to state police chief Comm Datuk Mohd Mokhtar Mohd Shariff, more than 5,400 machines were confiscated and 4,880 people were arrested for involvement in illegal betting rings.
“We have taken action against illegal gambling dens, including so-called family entertainment outlets operating without licenses or flouting its conditions,” the police chief said during a press conference held Tuesday.
In Penang, criminals have been laying low because of the crackdown. According to deputy police chief Deputy Comm Datuk A. Thaiveegan, authorities believe many illegal outlets will reopen once the crackdown is over, but added that police raids “will continue indefinitely”.