Betting in Malaysia

The Malayan Peninsula was long a British colony. Although Malaysia won its independence in 1957, many of its laws have remained influenced by old British statutes, including the Betting Act of 1953, as amended in 2006, which states that “a common betting house shall be deemed to be a common nuisance and contrary to law.”

The Act further states that “any person who bets or wagers in a common betting house, or with a bookmaker on any premises or by any means, shall be guilty of an offence.” It could not be any clearer—both bookmaking and sports betting are illegal in Malaysia, online, by phone, over-the-counter or by any other means.

However, separate laws cover other forms of gambling, such as the Lotteries Act of 1952 under which the Social and Welfare Services Lotteries Board operates; the Racing Act of 1961, which established pari-mutuel betting via the Totalizator Board at race courses; and the Common Gaming Houses Act of 1953, whereby “the Minister of Finance may, in his discretion, by licence authorize a company registered under the Companies Act 1965 … to promote and organize gaming.”

The latter, of course, led to the creation of the world’s largest casino complex at Genting Highlands, which might cause many to believe that gambling is welcomed by Malaysia. The truth, however, is that it is grudgingly tolerated.

Under Islamic Law known as “Sharia”—which governs all ethnic Malays who are Muslim, about 60% of the country’s population—no form of gambling is legal whatsoever. The huge casino and the Tote are primarily there to serve the country’s ethnic Chinese population, which makes up about one-third of the populace, along with other minorities and tourists. Local Muslims are forbidden to play at the Casino de Genting.

Lest anyone think that this situation is likely to change in the near future, consider the Malaysian Cabinet’s 2010 decision to deny a requested sports betting license to Ascot Sports Sdn Bhd. As Prime Minister Najib Abdul Razak stated, the decision to prohibit legalised wagering was made because of “the (negative) impact it will have from the perspective of religion and politics.”

In this restrictive climate, illegal betting operations have sprung up, keeping the police force quite busy indeed. In fact, according to a report published in July of 2011, “Every few days, police carry out raids in an endless and hopeless war against Chinese Malaysian gamblers.”

Add to that the appeal of online sportsbooks, which make it exceedingly easy for any resident of Malaysia with a computer to wager over the Internet. CasinoCity counts no fewer than 340 English-language sports betting sites that accept play from Malaysia. Among them are such major high street bookmakers as Paddy Power, Ladbrokes, William Hill, Bet365 and BetFred, to name but a few.

Over 1,900 gaming sites will accept Vida credit cards issued in Malaysia, just as another 1,800+ will take MasterCard. Out of 1,792 NETeller affiliated sites worldwide, fully 1,441 accept play from Malaysia with funding in ringgits.

Those who might be concerned about breaking Malaysian laws by placing wagers online can easily cross the border into Singapore, which does not currently have any laws against it except in public places. Neighboring Thailand, by contrast, censors access to gaming web sites and has strict laws against gambling.

The Malaysian Mirror newspaper has gone on record in favour of new gaming licenses and expanded opportunities to bet on sports. In a recent op-ed piece they stated that the government should not “deny Malaysians the right to spend their money as they please … let’s not show the red card to legalized sports betting prematurely.”

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