KUALA LUMPUR - Malaysia has said it has not yet issued a controversial sport betting licence and will consult further over the issue which has triggered protests in the Muslim-majority nation.
Prime Minister Najib Razak reportedly said the government had not finalised its discussions on the terms and conditions of the licence for Ascot Sports, a company controlled by influential tycoon Vincent Tan.
"The government is still getting feedback and views from the various quarters on the proposed licensing for a betting bookie in Malaysia aimed at reducing and subsequently eliminating unlicensed gambling in Malaysia," he said in written reply to an opposition query, state news agency Bernama said Monday.
In May it was widely reported that the government had granted a sports betting licence to Ascot Sports in a bid to boost tax revenue, but the move ran into stiff opposition, particularly from Muslim groups and the opposition.
Tan, the chairman of property-to-gaming group Berjaya, said that legalising sports gambling would generate more than 900 million dollars a year for government coffers.
"Why are some politicians so against this?" he told the New Sunday Times newspaper.
Tan, who sold a 70 percent stake in Ascot Sports to Berjaya for 525 million ringgit (157 million dollars), said he would donate his earnings to charity.
Berjaya said the illegal sports betting market in Malaysia was worth as much as 20 billion ringgit (6.0 billion dollars) a year.
Malaysia's government issued a sports betting licence to Ascot Sports in 1987 but it was quickly rescinded and an attempt to revive it several years ago failed because of opposition to gambling, which is forbidden in Islam.
The surprise back-tracking on the licence jeopardises Ascot's plans to launch products based on major sporting events including football, basketball, motor racing, tennis and golf.
Tan had said that punters in Malaysia would be able to place their bets from September in time for the hugely popular English Premier League football season.