Sunday, September 30, 2007

Malaysia is top Asian gambling destination

KUALA LUMPUR (IslamOnline, 19/10/2000) - Aided by government involvement in the industry, the Party Islam Se-Malaysia (PAS) is reeling over reports that Malaysia has become one of the top Asian gambling centers.

Parliament member Husam Musa told the legislative body that the government of Malaysia is not only approving gambling licenses, but that it also owns shares in top gambling companies in the country.

Another Parliament member, Abdul Rahman Yusof, today "congratulated" the Federal Government for making Malaysia a favorite destination for gamblers worldwide.

Husam said the shares are in the form of "golden shares" in Sports Toto Malaysia, 5,000 units of ordinary shares in Genting International Limited, 1,334 shares in Resorts World Berhad, 20,000 shares in Berjaya Group and 327,200 shares in Metroplex Berhad.

He added, "The fact that gambling companies in the country have seen an increase in their profit has rendered the National Front [NF] regime's claim that it was implementing Islamic values as nonsensical."

He revealed that Berjaya Sports Toto Berhad, which recorded a pre-tax profit of $110 million in 1998, has seen an almost four-fold rise in pre-tax profit amounting to RM550 million in 1999.

If "the government itself is gambling, how then does one expect it to curb gambling? Gambling is cash rich business for the government, no capital, no bank loans, profit is in huge amount of cash on a daily basis," he said.

Husam charged that the government was the main protector for the gambling industry. In Malaysia, Muslims are not allowed to gamble or to be seen in casinos. The country has one casino in the Genting Highlands, which attracts gamblers from Japan, Singapore, Indonesia and, in particular, the United States.

"People [involved in gambling] can come and go. When their money is exhausted, they can commit suicide," Husam added. Husam was referring to an incident last month in Kuala Lumpur when two ladies jumped to their death from a high-rise apartment building after losing $200,000 gambling.

He said the government should not hide behind the excuse that gambling is part of the Chinese culture and therefore difficult to be stopped.

"This sort of insult must be stopped. It is wrong to link a whole race with a bad habit," he added.

Parliamentarian Abdul Rahman said, "In a Singapore newspaper report this month, a businessman, Chen Lip Keong, chairman of Lipkland Group, who owns Ariston Sdn Bhd a company registered in Malaysia, has been reportedly planning to invest $1 billion in the construction of a casino complex, the largest in Asia, in Sihanoukville, Cambodia.

"This entrepreneur is close to the top leaders of this country, and this only shows his activities have received our leaders' blessings," he said.

Abdul Rahman said in the newspaper report that Chen was quoted as saying that he was making a profit out of the "Asians" addiction to gambling.

Rahman said that if indeed Asians are addicted to gambling, Malaysia, as a Muslim country, should make efforts to cure the disease and not allow any of its companies to take advantage of this disease.

The Islamic-orientated party, PAS, banned all forms of gambling in the two states it controls, Kelantan and Terengganu. The PAS believes that gambling can be controlled, and eventually eradicated, in the country by imposing strict bans on its activities and by shutting down gambling operators.

The Chinese community of Malaysia, however, argues that gambling is part and parcel of their tradition and that to ban it completely will be an offence to the community at large.

In the Philippines, the President Joseph Estrada is facing serious challenges of participation and cover up operations in illegal gambling operations. Millions of U.S. dollars may have been paid to Estrada and his colleagues.

Former President Corazon Aquino called on Estrada to consider resigning over the illegal gambling allegations. The Philippines government has banned all gambling, official and non-official, in a bid to clear Estrada's name in the scandal.

In Malaysia however, gambling is officially recognized.

"The two Parliamentarians must have showed lots of guts to denounce the regime of Mahathir over this issue," Ahmad Damha of Stopinjustice told IslamOnline.


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