Legal way to cripple bookies

Legal way to cripple bookies
Completely legal: Football betting enthusiasts placing bets at a legal betting outlet in Singapore.

MALAYSIA - The exact figure is in dispute, but industry insiders agree that Malaysia stands to make a minimum of RM1 billion (S$390 million) a year in taxes if sports betting is legalised.

This figure could even go as high as RM3 billion (S$1.17 billion) or more if you include a World Cup year.

Punters love the World Cup because of the endless betting possibilities and the bookies are laughing all the way to the bank because it's a one-month sporting extravaganza that nets them the most amount of money.

The move to legalise sports betting, specifically football bets, is not new.

A few years ago, the Government granted preliminary approval for a company to launch a football pools business, but it was swiftly withdrawn following objections from various parties. It cannot be denied that football betting leads to a host of social ills.

Young gamblers especially are drawn into a lifestyle where you could make RM1,000 (S$400) at a click of a mouse.

We've all read reports of how youngsters have blown their parents' credit card limit betting on football.

Loan sharks are closely associated with illegal bookies because punters are often given "soft" loans to cover debts incurred from football bets. It's a vicious cycle that often leads to the victim being ostracised from family and friends.

The ongoing World Cup has already drawn the interest of the police who are keeping a close eye on bookies and illegal betting. Betting on football matches is illegal in Malaysia and even those who place bets on betting websites that are legal in other countries will face action.

Federal Secret Societies, Gambling and Vice Division (D7) principal assistant director Senior Asst Comm Roslee Chik told The Star that the total bets for the last World Cup in South Africa four years ago amounted to more than RM438 million (S$170 million) nationwide.

"We expect this year's tournament to surpass that amount as syndicates and gamblers are using smartphones rather than laptops.

"In the 2010 World Cup, we only had to deal with syndicates and gamblers using laptops but now smartphones have become the tool of the bookies," he said.

Despite the police's best efforts, it will be impossible to wipe out illegal sports betting. Technology has given the average bookie a new lease of life.

If in the past bets were taken over the phone via scraps of paper (evidence that the police look for), now punters do not even need to meet their bookies.

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