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KUALA LUMPUR: Proposed harsher penalties against illegal gambling for both punters and operators in Budget 2020 will serve as a deterrent although it will not eradicate the menace that is widespread nationwide. It was proposed in Budget 2020 that to curb illegal gambling, the government impose a higher minimum mandatory penalty of RM100,000 for illegal gamblers and a minimum mandatory jail sentence of six months. For illegal operators, a minimum mandatory penalty of RM1 million and a 12-month minimum mandatory jail sentence was proposed. Currently, the penalty for illegal gambling under the Common Gaming Houses Act is a fine of up to RM50,000 or up to six months’ jail, or both, while operators of such activities can be fined up to RM50,000 and jailed up to three years, or both. Criminologist and head of the Universiti Sains Malaysia research team on crime and policing, Assoc Professor Datuk Dr P. Sundramoorthy, said yesterday that implementing the proposed penalties will see a substantial reduction in illegal gambling activities, but might not deter hardcore punters of illegal gaming such as four-digit games. Sundramoorthy added that solely punitive measures will not deter or eradicate the menace. “The convenience in punting and larger prize payouts might be worth the trouble to some. Apart from harsher laws, perhaps it is time legitimate gaming companies consider a plan to stay competitive by raising prize payouts close or identical to the illegal ones, although we know legal gaming companies pay taxes and this might mean lower profits. “To overcome this, the government could consider imposing taxes on the prize payout instead of on the wager as it imposes currently. If the tax is 5% on the wager now, do away with it and impose it on the payout instead like in some countries. “There should also be a new mechanism that is convenient for punters to collect payout of prizes, like having the winning money deposited directly into one’s account,” he told theSun. Criminal lawyer K.A. Ramu, who welcomed the proposal, said apart from legislation, stern laws to prosecute enforcement personnel who collude with illegal gambling syndicates should also be in place to counter the issue. “The syndicates have insiders who collude with them and warn them of raids and operations. The small fish, often foreign workers, get arrested. It is the big fish that should be pursued to end the whole illegal operation,” he said. Criminologist and former Transparency-International (Malaysia) president Datuk Seri Akhbar Satar, who lauded the new tougher penalties, said it is ultimately political will and the integrity of enforcement agencies that will and can weed out illegal gambling activities. Another lawyer, Rajesh Nagarajan, said the effects that this proposal will have on illegal online gambling remains to be seen and would only be apparent once it comes into force. A source from a legitimate gaming company told theSun that the relevant laws should be amended to include the proposed penalties as soon as possible and enforcement should go full swing. Several months ago, a licensed gaming industry source told theSun that revenue from illegal lottery operations far surpasses that of the six legal gaming companies in the country – Sports Toto, Magnum 4D, Da Ma Cai, Sabah 88, Sandakan Turf Club and Sarawak Cash Sweep. While the six collectively report about RM9 billion in annual revenue and are subjected to about 20% in gaming and corporate taxes, the illegal rackets are said to be raking in 3 to 5 times that of the legal operators, between RM30 to RM45 billion a year – tax-free. This means the government is losing an estimated RM6 billion to RM9 billion in taxes yearly – enough to build about 10 or more modern hospitals or about 400 primary schools a year.

This article was clipped from theSun (No. 7392 PP 2644/12/2012 (031195) published on Monday, October 14, 2019 by Charles Ramendran.

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