In Malaysia our gambling laws are quite interesting. Resorts World Genting is reachable in about one hour from our capital Kuala Lumpur by train. This is where Monte Carlo Casino, Hollywood Casino and StarWorld Casino are located. It is however illegal for 60% of our population to use these casinos – specifically Muslims. The same applies to other forms of gambling here too.
In this article I’ll explain the laws, what forms of gambling are legal, and how this differs for Muslim and non-Muslim. If you are interested in Online Betting from Malaysia there is a Part II article that you can read on the bottom of this page.
Betting Act 1953 and Exemptions
The primary law that regulates gambling in Malaysia is the Betting Act of 1953. This was amended in 1958, 1959, 1961, 1989, 1992 (twice), and 2006. The link provided is to the current copy which includes all amendments.
This Act is about 20 pages and is written in simple easy to understand English. While there are many laws and very little is left out, let me mention the primary law for players. Here the penalty for unlawful gambling is set at “a fine not exceeding five thousand ringgit or to imprisonment for a term not exceeding six months or to both.”. It also includes much stricter laws for those involved in operating, promoting or having any non-player involvement in gambling businesses.
There are however many forms of legal gambling under the Betting Act. It specifically states the penalties do not apply to approved and licensed gambling. As mentioned in the intro to this article, for that we have legal casinos that are available. We also have legal pari-mutuel horse race betting due to the Racing (Totalizator Board) Act 1961. Lottery is legal here too which originally government owned has been private since 1985. You can learn about that at www.sportstoto.com.my.
Sharia Law Applies to Mulsims
The legal forms of gambling mentioned above are mostly designed to target Chinese (about 1/3 our population), other minorities, and tourists. Under Malaysian law all ethnic-Malays are required to be Sunni Muslim. They are therefore subject to Islamic Law which makes gambling a serious crime. For those not familiar with this take a look at Penang’s Syriah Criminal Offences Enactment of 1996.
The above link is a decent scan for anyone not familiar with Malaysian Law. Here you will find penalties for enticing a female person, abuses of halal sign, preventing a married couple from cohabiting, and all sorts of items not typically found in Common Law. Section 18 sets the penalty for Muslims caught gambling at a fine up to 3000 ringgit, or 2-years imprisonment, or both.
The above is only an example from one of Malaysia’s 13-states. However, each and every state has similar laws. Each state also has an Islamic Religious Affairs Department, whom among other agencies, enforce Islamic Sharia law. Even Muslim tourists are subject to these laws. There have been recent cases of Indonesian and Pakistani men arrested while on holiday for visiting casinos that are legal to about 40% of the population.
Political Climate of Malaysia
This article might misrepresent Kuala Lumpur. This is actually a very friendly city to live. However there are some strange situations here. Since 2000, all video games have been banned in the country. Today there are internet cafés with closed circuit televisions to watch for police raids while games are played inside. In 2010, Malaysian gaming group Berjaya (BGRO.KL) announced it was purchasing a 70% stake in Ascot Sports Sdn Bhd for 525 million ringgit. It was claimed Ascot had been issued a license to launch sports betting in Malaysia. Soon later there were protests and shortly after that the government denied any such license had ever existed.
This is all best explained as: in Malaysia we have many Muslims opposed to gambling. There are constant outcries and protests even over the legal forms of gambling we have already. It was said in a news article not too long ago that it seems every couple days the police are launching a new attack on Chinese gamblers. This explains it well from my perspective as daily something or another is being protested.
Online Gambling is Easier
The good news is it still possible to use overseas online gambling sites from the privacy of one’s own home without issue. For example www.bodog88.com is a post up betting site based in the Philippines that offers casino, sports betting, poker and Mahjong to Malaysia residents.
Players can deposit online or at the ATM using direct bank transfer. When they win, cash outs can be requested to the same method. The banks supported by Bodog Malaysia include Maybank, Public Bank, CIMB, RHB, Standard Chartered Bank, Hong Leong Bank, Affin Bank, EON Bank, Alliance Bank Malaysia, AmBank, Citibank, OCBC Bank, HSBC Bank, and United Overseas Bank.
In a country where the next gambling protests seem always around the corner, using gambling located in the Philippines from one’s own home is stress free and a much welcomed change.