Since July of 2019, the government of Malaysia has already been contemplating enactment of laws that would allow the country’s non-Muslim citizens to gamble. Thereafter in July 2020, Deputy Minister Datuk Zahidi Zainul Abidin of Malaysia’s Communications and Multimedia Department mentioned in a televised interview that discussions are still ongoing over the possible legalization of online gambling but only for non-Muslim citizens.
Although it’s generally perceived that gambling is forbidden in Malaysia, the prohibition actually applies to Muslim Malays in light of the Islamic Shaira law that forbids any form of gambling. Muslim Malays represent more than half of the country’s population, while the rest consists mainly of non-Muslim Chinese and people with Indian roots; both coming from a culture in which gambling is deeply-rooted as a traditional recreational activity.
Nonetheless, as a way to be flexible, the Malaysian government allowed the establishment and operation of a land-based casino that caters to tourists and non-Muslim citizens. However, Genting Highlight Resort, the only place where casino gaming is legal in Malaysia, is situated in a hill in Pahang, a sultanate federal state near Kuala Lumpur. Due to its remote location and reputation as a high-end gambling destination, ordinary non-Muslim gamblers find ti more enjoyable to gamble in their own home by accessing online gambling websites.
The downside to the popularity of online gambling in Malaysia is that it also put many Malaysian locals at risk of being victimized by unscrupulous operators of unregulated online casinos. In fact, Deputy Minister Abidin remarked during the televised interview that during the COVID-19 lockdown, online gambling activities became even more rampant among locals.
As it became clear that eradicating online gambling in the country equates to high costs, the Deputy Minister of Communications said that now more than ever, the government is seriously considering updating the nation’s gambling laws. Rather than spend government funds on trying to achieve the impossible, a regulatory body will be created to manage and oversee online gambling activities as a way to ensure that only non-Muslim citizens will participate. Besides, doing so will enable the government to collect revenues by imposing taxes on casino winnings and operations.
Malaysian Government Plans to Partner with the Philippines’ PAGCOR
In a related local Philippine news, Andrea Domingo, the head of the Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corporation (PAGCOR) announced that they are currently discussing collaborations with the Malaysian government in the renewed thrust to legalizing online gambling in Malaysia. PAGCOR regulates and oversees the operations of remote gaming operators who offer their online casino products and betting services, in countries like Malaysia, Singapore, Indonesia and Thailand.
According to Ms. Domingo, they have already received a Memorandum of Agreement from the government of Malaysia, which include among other things an offer to give PAGCOR-licensed offshore online gambling operators (POGOS) a 10-year license to legally operate in the country. The offer is subject to the condition that POGO’s will only accept non-Muslim citizens as customers and that at least 30% of the online casino’s workforce are Malaysian citizens.
Non-Muslim Malaysian gamblers anticipate further developments as they are inclined to play only at licensed online casinos. They do so by downloading mobile gambling applications from online casino websites like mega888. In fact mega888 is one of the most popular mobile gaming app in Malaysia and other Southeast Asian countries. This is mainly because the mobile gambling application combines multiple brands of slots and casino table games that include traditional Asian games.