Thursday, June 10, 2010

Betting on gambling in Malaysia

The rancour over the Ascot sports betting saga needs a better context.

First, the Malaysian government has consistently demonstrated a level of pragmatism that should rightly be held up as a model of sensible governance in a multi-racial and multi-faith community. This cannot be disputed. This should be applauded.

Second, the propensity to gamble will always be there, particularly within the Chinese Malaysian community. We can argue till the cows come home. The fact will remain that gambling activity will remain significant in the Chinese Malaysian community. A good government will not ignore this social reality.

Third, if the Malaysian government chooses to be cowed by moralistic shouting by certain quarters it will have failed to act responsibly to deal with an obvious activity that fertilises the criminal elements in Malaysia. There is a trade-off between being moralistic in a crime-infested community and to practice hardnosed governance by regulating a hitherto "black economic activity".

(Yes, naysayers can cleverly point to prostitution and drugs as other examples of the "black economy" but such arguments can be said to being too clever by half. This is not a luxury that a responsible government can afford to indulge in).

Why not an open tender?
That said, the point raised by detractors who asked why an open tender was not made does require a straight answer from the Malaysian government.

If there was, indeed, a "first right of refusal" given to Ascot, then, can the rakyat have a look at the document?

If not, why not?

This has to be answered. If no answers are forthcoming, this Malaysian government can expect strong cries of cronyism.

If there are sound legal reasons which will give Ascot a sure-win in the Courts over the Malaysian government, then, the rakyat would want to know whether the Attorney-General has rendered a legal opinion on the matter.

Poor spin control
As I have said in a previous short post on sports betting, the ineptitude in handling the matter is astounding.

The sensible playbook should have been as follows:

First, get the law enforcement people to seriously clamp down on illegal gambling activities. Arrests must be made. Charges must be written up. Books must be thrown at gambling syndicates.

Second, get the media to trumpet these arrests and charges.

Third, get the law enforcement people to provide fresh estimates on the incidence of illegal gambling. (Yes, it's been done umpteen times. But, hell, the public has a short memory and attention span. Do it again and again.)

Fourth, get the politicians and NGOs to decry the incidence of illegal gambling activities. Link it to criminal activities (which is obvious).

Fifth, repeat steps one to four several times over the span of at least one month.

Sixth, then, announce the grant of the sports betting franchise.

But, wait, the idiot who stands to receive the franchise needs to be grabbed by the collar and told in no uncertain terms that he must not, at all cost, strut his stuff in the public arena. He must call in the professional spinners (aka media and public relations people) to disseminate public statements in an orderly and controlled manner.

No off-the-cuff verbatim remarks are permitted.

Seven, make sure that the recipient establishes a major effort, no expenses spared, for round-the-clock gambling addiction counselling services.

Eight, highlight the gambling addiction counselling services. Get expert psychologists to write about or, be interviewed, on how the modality of gambling addiction counselling will be provided.

And, of course, even with all that there will be no stopping brickbats from being thrown.

But, at least, you will have been better prepared than to lamely answer questions in Parliament by replying that the sports betting licence has not been given ... yet.

Why no open tender?
All eight steps will not answer why no open tender was conducted.

That question needs to be answered by the Malaysian government.


walla said...


The privilege of first option implies prior agreement. What was agreed and why the partiality?

How can the rakyat not conclude that the approval was to give Umno a channel to new money that will be used in GE13 to buy voters?

It's the same as 'i help you, you help me'. Using the rakyats' money to buy their votes. The three unexplainable crossovers in Perak already rankle.

Not once has the government come out to say a word since Hulu Selangor and Sibu that this is not so. Why?


'“It started very small as he said he lost money on football betting. Then the amounts got larger and he said he owed some Ah Long (loan sharks)'" (

Has the government considered that legalising sports betting, in particular football which appeals to the young, will actually attract those who had stayed away from illegal betting to join in and get addicted to something which can ruin lives?

Has the government said what it will be doing with the new tax revenues from the approval?

And about the licensee, just look at the crap that is that building's design next to Tropicana City and overlooking Damansara Kim to understand the mentality of the management in that group.

Also ask them how come Tropicana, presumably the most premier address in PJ, doesn't have its own access road but was given approval to go ahead by none other than......

donplaypuks® said...

The 4 oldest professions in human history are:

1. Prostitution
2. Priesthood
3. Accounting and tax frausdsters
4. Gambling

No. (2) and (3) are pretty much legalized. That's why the Pope and Bernie Madhoff got away with for so long!

No.1 is illegal in most countries including Thailand. S'pore legalized it, but is only kidding itself that it's under control. The moment you check into even a 4 or 5-star hotel there, a calling card will mysteriously be slipped under your door!

And what's Dubai all about? The sheikhs flock there to wonder at the architectural marvels of the Burj and Khalifah, you think? The airport taxi drivers will start off with "Sir, you want Russian, Chinese or Mongolian" and they'd not exactly be talking about vodka, fried rice or yak teriyake!

Gambling is a true profession because it needs a nimble and mathematics oriented mind to work out the odds and also come up with innovative permutations for "1/2 ball" betting as can only be found in M'sia & S'pore!

Besides, anyone can get on the
internet and gamble away to glory or make a call to S'pore to place their bets.

So, the long term solution to minimise the vices is education, education, education and enforcement, enforement, enforcement!!

In the meantine legalizing betting is a better option than allowing the illegal bookies to rake in billions, especially since (sshh!) word has it we'll go bust by 2019!

After all, our "Islamic Govt" has been enjoying the benefits of taxing and milking Genting, Magnum, Tanjong, massage, nightclub and spa operators and pork, alcohol and cigarette sellers without the moral dilemma of it paralysing it, has it not?

Why no open tender?

Come come de minimis, you are far too intelligent for that! That's the very raison d'etre of UMNO/BN and its quest to stay in power forever.

It all started circa 1987 when in a Federal Court decision Chief Justice Tun Salleh Abbas cast his crucial vote and made it 3-2 in favour of the Govt NOT following open tender mandatory Treasury rules in the UEM $800 million toll highway contract. It's been going downhill ever since then!!

we are all of 1 race, the HUman Race

Wenger J Khairy said...

One should read the sports betting concession together with the dramatic drop in Government revenues.

But I disagree on the premise. Betting ruins families. It does not create a culture of savings. Whether or not Vincent Tan made half a billion through the magic of paper trading is irrelevant. The license is worth the same - and as we know VT is a front for the cartel. But open or close tender is still not the answer - betting should just be banned and a big stick used against illegal bookies

CPL said...

One of the reasons given for not using the open tender system is security. This was recentky explained when questions were asked about a military contract.

Waiting for a hilarious answer for sport betting