Malaysian Dispute Over Ascot Sports Licence


'We haven't issued it yet,' says federal government.

Confusion reigns in Malaysia, where businessmen, media and anti-gambling groups appear to believe that Vincent Tan's Ascot Sports company has been awarded an online gambling licence…but the federal government says it has not.

Amid a growing furore over the issue of the licence, federal government spokesmen this week emphasised that politicians were considering the possibility, but have not yet issued the controversial sports betting licence and intend to consult further over the issue.

Prime Minister Najib Razak said the government had not finalised its discussions on the terms and conditions of the licence for Ascot Sports.

'The government is still getting feedback and views from various quarters on the proposed licensing for a bookmaker in Malaysia aimed at reducing and subsequently eliminating unlicensed gambling in Malaysia,' Najib said in a written reply to an opposition query.

Tan recently sold a 70 percent stake in Ascot Sports to the Berjaya company, in which he also has an interest, for 525 million ringgit ($160 million). Berjaya said Malaysia's illegal sports betting market was worth up to 20 billion ringgit a year.

The government originally issued a sports betting licence to Ascot Sports in 1987, but it was subsequently rescinded, reports the Bernama news agency. Subsequent attempts to revive the licence failed, mainly due to opposition from Muslim anti-gambling factions.

The government's repudiation of his claims to a licence has the potential to embarrass Tan, who is on record as saying that Ascot could be offering legal betting on major sporting events including football by September 2010.

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