Malaysian Church Must Clarify Its Position on Gambling as Prime Minister Asks Government to Acquire Tax Revenue from Online Gambling

Pixabay/Stefan Schweihofer

The Malaysian government has started levying taxes on the many forms of gambling available in their country. Nevertheless, since it only applies to sweepstakes, horse racing, and casinos, the country's prime minister urges the administration to obtain tax revenue from online gambling. As this kind of gambling has the potential to be legalized, the Church reportedly needs to address its stance on this.

Gambling at Malaysia

In Malaysia, people frequently participate in gambling activities, both those that are legal and those that are not. Certain types of gambling in this country, such as lottery draws, casino games, and horse racing, are permitted; however, all types of sports betting conducted at bookmakers and online gambling are prohibited. PubMed Central stated that gambling is only permitted within the country if the relevant authorities, specifically the Unit Kawalan Perjudian (betting control unit) of the Ministry of Finance, have issued a license or license for it. The Lotteries Act of 1952 reportedly allows for the operation of lotteries in Malaysia, which currently has six licensed lotteries run by private companies. In addition to these, several illegal lottery enterprises are operating in the country, and according to one estimate, "Malaysia's illegal lottery business generated about 60 percent more revenue than the six legal operators combined in 2018."

A recent report from Asia Gaming Brief stated that after promptly withdrawing licenses on January 1, 2023, and implementing a ban on selling points for 4D lottery games, Kedah state has come under fire for its decision. Opponents of this measure contended that it would compel international investors to seek illicit gambling opportunities in other countries and with other players. 

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Potential Legalization of Online Gambling

Malaysia's federal authorities are investigating online gambling since they lose nearly $430 million in annual tax revenue. Under Prime Minister Anwar Ibrahim, the government's goal is to control the sector through regulation and collect tax money from online gaming. As mentioned, it would be a welcome cash windfall for a nation whose annual budget has been in the red every year since 1998. UCA News reported that the decades-old legislations such as the Lotteries Act of 1952, the Common Gaming Houses Act of 1953, the Betting Act of 1953, and the Pool Betting Act of 1967 are some of the laws that ought to be updated because they do not include any provisions for online gambling. 

Moreover, Muslim groups in Sarawak, a state in which Christians make up the majority of the population compared to all other religious groups, are opposed to the intention of the state government to develop a casino because they believe there are other opportunities to generate income. The groups claim that the societal consequences of gambling are irreversible, which is the same rationale that the governments of Kedah and Perlis states provide for their stance on the issue. Throughout the years, the bishops in the United States and the Philippines have been quite public in their opposition to gambling. On the other hand, the Church in Malaysia has kept silent. Accordingly, the Church must realize that its social effect is already too significant to be ignored and will only grow once internet gambling is legalized. Recently, the government of Malaysia disclosed that one of the top three social problems afflicting young people in the country is participating in online gambling. The other two are being bankrupt and having a pornography addiction.

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