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New Malaysian budget sees increase in gambling penalties

Lim Guan EngMalaysia’s Minister of Finance has come to announce punishments for both gamblers and gambling operators will be increased as part of the country’s 2020 budget.

The budget, which was introduced on Friday (11 October), has also set out that the number of four-digit lottery draws per year run by the Number Forecast Operators (NFO) will be reduced from 11 to eight.

It has been found that the maximum penalty for those who gamble illegally will be increased 20-fold from RM5,000 (£943/$1,084/$1,193) to RM100,000.

In addition to this, where previously there was no minimum sentence for gambling under the Common Gaming Houses Act of 1953, it will be now carrying out a jail term of no less than six months.

The minimum penalty of RM1m replaces the former minimum penalty of RM5,000 for illegal gambling operators. Operating illegal gambling previously carried a maximum penalty of RM50,000, however no maximum penalty is mentioned in the new budget.

With the exception of the NFO four-digit games, gambling is now against the law for all Malaysian citizens, but the country does allow foreigners to gamble at the Genting Highlight Resort.

The increase in punishments has come soon after the Malaysian police announced the arrests of 247 people, in connection with illegal China-facing online gambling operations that authorities say took in RM24.8 (£4.8m/€5.4m/$5.9m) per month. The authorities have seized RM 3.12bn worth of assets in the raids, which took place between 25 September and 3 October.

The crackdown was the latest in a wave of moves against China-facing online gambling across South-East Asia after similar crackdowns in Cambodia and the Philippines took place.

The budget did not detail any changes to the upper limit on prison sentences for online gamblers however, which is also set at six months for players, or for illegal operators, for whom the maximum sentence is three years.

Parliament will need to pass the budget to become law, but with budgets in the country treated as a matter of confidence, it is not expected to face difficulty in passing.

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