Malaysian Religious Police are investigating reports of two ships off Johor Baru, on the coast of Pasir Gudang, which under the pretense of family cruises, are in reality secret floating casinos catering to Malaysian Muslim gamblers.
Before the opening of Singapore’s twin casinos, thousands of people visited the Singapore owned vessels each day, which are located in international waters.
Today the number has dwindled to hundreds. The elderly and the housewives who are not up to a lengthy trip to expensive Singapore, and not tech savvy enough to use Malaysian internet casinos, are the bread and butter of these floating casinos.
Regular gamblers receive complementary free food, drinks, accommodations and even free tickets from Pasir Gudang ship terminal directly to the casino ships.
A local, who would only use the name Wang, 52, revealed that a total of three to four ferry trips are made daily to the gambling ships located outside the reach of Malaysian authorities.
Wang said the cruises are disguised under the name ‘Cruise to Nowhere’ to fool local authorities.
“About 300 to 500 go to the gambling ships every day. Some people even spend two or three days aboard the ships to gamble,” disclosed Wang, “There are other things on the ships, girls and karaoke, spas and dancing, but everyone go just for gambling or to bet on sports in Malaysia.”
Wang described the floating pleasure palaces as having many hundreds of slot machines, mahjong tables as well as blackjack and roulette.
Malaysian Maritime Enforcement Agency Admiral Zulkifli Abu Bakar said that the ships are not breaking any rules or Malaysian gambling laws.
“The ship operators are smart and they use the loopholes in the law. So, there is not much that the authorities can do to stop their activities,” he said, “What most of these ships do is sail through the traffic separation zone for Malaysia, Singapore and Indonesia. This helps them to evade local laws.”
If the ships are detected inside territorial waters of Malaysia and gambling is found aboard they would be charged under Section 4(1)(b) of Common Gaming House Act 1953. If found guilty, a prison term of three years as well as a RM50,000 fine awaits the convict.