‘Kedah ban on licensed 4D gaming counter productive’

“It is so openly carried out that the authorities can’t be unaware of the illegal activities. Apart from the higher prize payouts, illegal bookies are luring punters by making it easier and more convenient for them to place bets.

(The Sun Daily) – The Kedah government’s move to ban 4D gaming outlets in the state will present an enormous windfall for illegal lottery syndicates operating there, said industry players.

While the move serves to deter Kedahans from being involved in gambling, illegal lottery syndicates stand to double their takings with the latest decision.

The black market will now monopolise 4D gambling in the state, with Kedahans continuing to bet on 4D numbers, if the authorities turn a blind eye to illegal gambling activities.

The three legal number forecast operators (NFO) – Magnum, Damacai and Sports Toto – are expected to lose between RM120 million and RM150 million collectively in annual revenue, while the federal government will suffer losses of over RM20 million in gaming taxes.

Industry players estimate the syndicates will rake in more than three times the revenues of legal NFO, up to RM500 million annually, after the 45 NFO outlets
in Kedah were shuttered on Jan 1.

The better fortunes of the illegal monopoly are evident as checks showed illegal operators have lowered prize payouts by about 10%, which indicates they no longer have to attract punters with higher payouts.

However, it must be noted that despite the reduction, illegal syndicates still have higher prize money payouts compared with legal gambling operators.

A former operator of a 4D outlet in Kedah, who spoke to theSun on condition of anonymity, said while legal NFO were forced to shut down on Jan 1, it was business as usual for illegal 4D operators.

“On Jan 1, the authorities inspected all 4D outlets to ensure they complied with the state ban.

“However, illegal 4D syndicates that operate from cellphone shops, sundry shops, coffee shops, hardware stores and other outlets continued to operate.

“Punters are walking in and out of these premises daily. The illegal gambling business has boomed and illegal operators have assumed the market share previously held by legal NFO.”

He said illegal 4D syndicates are now expanding and offering punters more locations at which to place bets.

“It is so openly carried out that the authorities can’t be unaware of the illegal activities. Apart from the higher prize payouts, illegal bookies are luring punters by making it easier and more convenient for them to place bets.

“There was a time they offered free snacks and cigarettes to those who walked in.

“The syndicates have also gone digital, offering e-betting services where punters can buy their 4D numbers online and get paid the same way when they win.”

A 36-year-old resident of Sungai Petani said he is aware of the widespread illegal betting activity in the town.

The self-employed man, who declined to be named, said he had friends who regularly placed bets with illegal 4D operators due to the convenience.

He told theSun that illegal 4D syndicate runners also regularly visited punters at home to accept bets and deliver winnings.

“With smartphone apps, bets are placed via text and any winnings are directly deposited into the punters’ bank accounts.”

Universiti Sains Malaysia criminologist Datuk Dr P. Sundramoorthy said the Kedah government’s decision to no longer issue licences for NFO premises will lead to a more active illegal 4D market.

He said the state’s policymakers do not realise the consequences on the well-being of the people and did not consider that the “sin tax” received by the federal government is distributed to all states, including Kedah.

“So, Kedah should not ask for any taxes from 4D gaming since they have deprived legitimate businesses from operating in the state. The ban is a boon for the 4D black market.

“What many do not see is the mindset of 4D punters, a majority of whom do not see the game as a hardcore gambling habit in the same vein as going to a casino.

“As this sub-culture has been around for more than half a century, punters come from various socio-economic backgrounds. Hence, 4D betting enthusiasts who regularly place bets with NFO will continue to do so on the black market even more so now, since it is more convenient to do so and the legal option no longer exists.

Former inspector-general of police Tan Sri Musa Hassan said while the Kedah government banned 4D betting in the state as it follows Islamic teachings, which forbids gambling, it should also ensure such activities do not flourish in the black market.

He said stern action should be taken against illegal bookies and civil servants who are found to be working with illegal betting syndicates.

“To curb illegal gambling activities, police need to carry out some serious enforcement efforts, including identifying syndicate bosses and bringing them to book. Those working with these illegal bookies should also be arrested and prosecuted.

“These syndicates are protected by thugs and are prepared to bribe the authorities to keep the illegal business alive.”

Kedah Menteri Besar Datuk Seri Muhammad Sanusi Md Nor, who imposed the ban, said the gaming sector had contributed RM400,000 to state taxes in 2021.

He was reported to have said he will not budge on calls to reverse the ruling “even if the state earned RM400 million in taxes from the gaming sector”.