07 Julai 2010

Malaysian activists push for national gambling ban

Activists in Malaysia on Saturday launched a campaign to ban all forms of gambling in the country, after the government cancelled plans to legalise sports betting.

More than 500 mostly Malay Muslim supporters launched the movement with a demonstration at the capital's national mosque on Saturday, chanting "We hate gambling" and "Gambling is for the weak."

The campaign follows Prime Minister Najib Razak's announcement last week that his government had dropped a proposal to allow sports betting amid protests by groups who fear it would create more social ills.

Malaysia bans its majority Muslims from gambling but allows betting at a casino in Genting Highlands, on horse-racing and the national lottery.

Conservative Islamic opposition party PAS youth chief Nasrudin Hassan Tantawi, a member of the coalition against gambling, said the new campaign was aimed at getting all Malaysians to give up gambling.

"We want to eliminate gambling on ships at sea, from the kampungs and all the way to the peak of Genting Highlands," he said.

"It cannot be done immediately but on a phase by phase basis so that its acceptable to all religions and gambling can be totally eliminated," he added.

Uproar over sports betting erupted after Ascot Sports, a company controlled by influential tycoon Vincent Tan, said in May it had been granted a licence to offer odds for the hugely popular English Premier League football season.

Berjaya, the property-to-gaming group which has a 70 percent state in Ascot Sports, has said the illegal sports betting market in Malaysia is worth as much as 20 billion ringgit (six billion US dollars) a year.

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