Malaysian gambling laws prohibit sports betting, and in recent years, Malaysian officials have been working extremely hard to keep the country’s underground sports betting industry under control. It has gotten to the point where unlicensed sportsbooks in Malaysia are recruiting students to solicit bets from their schoolyard peers. Police are even becoming involved in the crackdown, and a special unit was set up months ago in anticipation of sports betting operations rising due to the 2010 World Cup.
Information, Communications and Culture minister Rais Yatim this week proposed the complete legalization and regulation of sports betting in the country. He believes that if punters are legally allowed to bet on sports in Malaysia, it would work to reduce illegal gambling activities and the other crimes that often go hand-in-hand with underground betting operations.
“Instead of allowing black market to flourish where even the young can participate,” said Yatim, “licensed sports betting, if well-regulated, will discourage illegal gambling activities.”
The Minister warns that such a step cannot be taken lightly. Legal sports betting must be regulated and taxed, with incoming tax revenues being channeled to a government escrow account and redistributed for non-Muslim welfare funds.
Most Malays practice Islam, which prohibits all forms of gambling. Yatim touched on this issue too: “There should not be any discrimination. We need to be objective and recognise the social rights of non-Muslims as well”.
Current sports betting operations are widespread. Bookies often make use of online sportsbooks in Malaysia, which makes it harder for police to track their activities. This is especially true if the sportsbooks they direct punters to are hosted in other countries, where the Malaysian police have no jurisdiction. What effect the legalization of sports betting would have on the state of internet sportsbooks in Malaysia cannot be predicted.