In an effort to direct players to the country’s limited gambling options, the government has announced tougher penalties on both punters and operators involved in unlicensed play.
In the Budget for 2020 announced in October, the government announced higher fines and even prison time for illegal gambling – a move intended to boost the tax take for the treasury.
“The government is losing out on millions in the form of tax as illegal syndicates make higher payments to punters,” said local lawyer N Sivananthan.
“The local gaming industry, especially the numbers forecast sector, is very lucrative. It all boils down to the enforcement of the law.”
Included in the 2020 Budget proposal, Finance Minister Lim Guan Eng said the government will propose a higher minimum mandatory penalty of RM100,000 ($1,200; or a 20- fold hike) for punters who gamble with unlicensed firms – as well as a mandatory six month jail term.
The black-market firms themselves could be in for a minimum mandatory penalty of RM1 million (c. $245,000) and a 12-month minimum mandatory jail sentence if caught.
Gambling is partly legal in Malaysia, but not for everyone and only at restricted establishments.
Currently only non-Muslims, above the age of 18, are permitted to place bets on one vertical: NFO four-digit games; while foreigners can gamble at the Genting casino. Before the new budget the courts could only mandate a single day in prison to illegal gamblers.