Malaysian Government Abandons Sports Betting Initiative


Ascot Sports left out on a limb

It's official - there will be no issue of sports betting licenses in Malaysia, and that's straight from the office of the country's political leader.

Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak told Agence France Presse this week that his government has dropped a proposal to legalise sports betting following protests by Muslim and anti-gambling groups who fear it will create social ills.

The news will be a particular blow to top businessman Vincent Tan and Ascot Sports, which he sold recently to another company - Berjaya - in which he has an interest in the hope that sports betting online could be in place by September this year .

Tan had earlier claimed that Ascot Sports had been granted a licence to offer odds for the hugely popular English Premier League season later this year.

The government denied such a licence had been issued and said that it was still reviewing its decision as Muslim groups, opposition leaders and even members of the ruling government coalition opposed the idea.

'I hereby wish to announce that the government has decided that the licence will not be issued,' Najib said late Friday.

'Although there were groups who supported as well those who did not support or opposed the decision, it was clear to the government that a majority of the people did not agree that the licence be issued to Ascot Sports,' he added.

The prime minister's decision to abandon the licence project came against a background of possible civil unrest as Opposition political parties threatened a mass street protest next month against the proposal.

Kamarulzaman Mohamed, youth secretary of the conservative Pan-Malaysia Islamic Party (PAS) said sports betting would add to Malaysia's social problems as the youth of the country were avid followers of football and could be influenced to borrow cash for betting.

Berjaya, which now has a 70 percent stake in Ascot Sports, has said the illegal sports betting market in Malaysia is worth up to US$6 billion a year.

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