By Ramlan Kamal
Malaysia is a Muslim country, where already most forms of betting/ gambling are allowed. In non-Muslim countries like Thailand, Vietnam, India and even China, a much stricter and restrictive approach is taken in legitimising gambling, in any form.
A quick and pertinent snapshot to what gambling are already given licence in Malaysia:-
Predominant Players/ Patrons
Upper Middle & Middle
3. Horse Racing
4. Numbers & Lotto betting
Middle-Low & Low
5. Sports betting (if allowed)
All, including Youths
For the numbers and lotto betting (i.e. magnum 4-D, 1+3D, Toto), it is estimated that, at least 50% - 60% are patronized by the non-Chinese. So, the argument by an ex-PM, that it is OK to legitimise sports betting (for the Chinese, as claimed), does not hold water. And it is precarious, if one extends the argument that, since sports gambling is happening anyway (i.e. illegally) we might as well legitimise it, to other misdeeds in society (like snatch thefts, robbery, rape, etc.).
It does appear (over the last two weeks) that concerted and ‘orchestrated’ efforts were made (by Police, political leaders and parties) to bring to the fore on activities of illegal sports (especially football) bookies. But we all know these activities have been going on for years. Suddenly now (in the midst of a company attempting to get a licence to operate sports betting), there is a frenzy to show the dark side of illegal gambling. Off course, suspicions are abound that monetary considerations must have taken place to spur and shift public opinion to support the move to legitimise sports gambling.
It is perhaps alright for Singapore to legitimise sports betting, as it is, by and large, a middle class nation. One can argue that their populace can afford it. Already our country’s financial and competitive position does not appear strong and in need of dire turnaround. Now, the Government is making an initiative that will further impoverish our populace (mostly the middle-low and low income group), and enriching only a set of already highly-privileged tycoons. Not that the Government is contemplating to increase its taxes on gambling, so that a more sizeable chunk can be channelled back to the citizenry (assuming there is genuineness to do this).
Seriously, Government should make efforts to check and verify, on who patronizes all the various gambling outfits and joints in Malaysia, and see whether it is actually predominantly the Chinese who are gambling or the entire spectrum of Malaysians.
One also wonders, how come the Malaysian ‘ulamaks’ are very tight-lipped over this whole issue of legitimising sports gambling.
It is high-time that the ruling parties running this beloved country of ours, start pondering about new models/ paradigms of getting political funding. If we want to achieve a First Nation status (as envisioned in the NEM), lets start legitimising political funding first. The Westerners and other developed countries have done this. This would be a crucial step in turning-around Malaysia, in particular to avoid and stop repeating our wastages of the past.
As a Muslim country, Malaysia should not be overzealously legitimising gambling. Those existing are already superfluous and bad enough. We all know gambling is one of the root causes of social ills. Government cannot be seen to be supporting this kind of eventual outcome. There are other ways for countries to earn more. For us, address the leakages out of unnecessary expenditures, mismanagement of income sources from GLCs, Inland Revenue and Customs. These ought to be the focus and priority.
Encik Ramlan Bin Kamal is essentially involved in the logistics industry in the country, among other things.