KUALA LUMPUR – The penalty for illegal gambling in Malaysia has remained unchanged for the past 70 years, causing frustration among gambling police officers who claim it is ineffective in combating the growing menace. Home Minister Datuk Seri Saifuddin Nasudian recently disclosed that outdated anti-gambling laws and a lack of political will have become major obstacles for the police in their efforts to crack down on gambling activities, especially online gambling.
A police officer from the Bukit Aman Anti-Indemnity, Gambling, and Secret Society Suppression Team (D7) expressed his concerns in an interview, highlighting the ineffectiveness of relying on the 1953 Public Gambling Act and the 1953 Gambling Act to combat the modern challenges posed by illegal online gambling.
Over the past seven decades, these laws have seen minimal amendments in Congress, rendering the prescribed imprisonment terms and fines unrealistic in today’s context. For instance, under Section 4(1) of the Public Place Gambling Act 1953, those found guilty of providing a casino site can be fined between RM5,000 and RM50,000, along with a maximum prison term of three years.
The police officer emphasized that the penalties outlined in the existing laws are insufficient, given that offenders may accumulate ill-gotten gains exceeding RM50,000 within a single month. Consequently, a three-year prison sentence is deemed inadequate to deter such criminal activities.
Moreover, the officer pointed out that online gambling has seen a significant surge in the past decade, making it even more challenging for the police to combat due to the limitations of the current legislation. As a result, law enforcement agencies have resorted to utilizing the Prevention of Crime Act (POCA) to detain and investigate individuals involved in online gambling activities.
However, in a blow to the police force, the Federal Court ruled in 2022 that the police cannot invoke POCA to detain and investigate individuals engaged in online gambling. The Federal Court Chief Justice Tan Sri Tunku Maimun, during her ruling, clarified that the definition of “organized crime” or “violence” stated in Article 149(1)(a) of the Federal Constitution does not encompass cyber gambling.
This legal setback has further complicated the police’s efforts to curb online gambling, leaving them grappling with outdated penalties and limited legal avenues. As illegal gambling continues to evolve, law enforcement agencies and policymakers face the challenge of revising and updating existing laws to effectively combat this persistent issue and protect the public from the harmful effects of gambling.