A state government is turning to the religious officers for backup in its war against illegal gambling centers in Malaysia.
The government of Negeri Sembilan, one of Malaysia’s 13 states, is mulling on the possibility that police can help train religious officers “to identify business premises used for illegal gambling activities,” The Malaysian Insider reported.
Menteri Besar Datuk Seri Mohamad Hasan, chief executive for Negeri Sembilan, said cases were often thrown out of court because religious officers had no in-depth knowledge on the matter, which was why religious officers needed to be trained on “identifying the premises and gathering evidence to show that the operators had committed the offense.”
Mohamad was quoted by the news outlet saying, “I am aware of all that is happening.” However, he admitted that operators were coming up with creative ways to outsmart the authorities. Recently, there have been an increase in number of family entertainment centers and cafes being used as a front for gambling in the state.
The Malay Mail Online recently reported that as of January 15, law enforcement officials in Negeri Sembilan have arrested 44 people and seized 182 gaming machines in 260 raids and surveillances, while 39 cases are at the prosecution stage.
In addition, State Urban Well-being, Housing and Local Government Committee Chairman Datuk Jalaluddin Alias told the news outlet that business licenses for all family entertainment centers in the state had been frozen.
“We still issue licenses for billiard, snooker and children’s games at shopping centers… but that’s all. So any such center that exists from now on are operating illegally,” the official said, according to the Malay Mail Online.
Malaysia has a long history of gambling restrictions that stretches back over a half century. Currently, the government is using the Prevention of Crime Act (Poca) to go after online gambling activities, but law enforcement authorities are also pushing for amendments to the provisions under the Communications and Multimedia Act, Lotteries Act of 1952, Common Gaming House Act 1953 and Betting Ordinance 1953.
Last year, Deputy Prime Minister Ahmad Zahid Hamidi vowed to wipe out gambling in the country, saying that he would not tolerate people protecting illegal gambling dens and telling all state police chiefs to bolster the fight against such “immoral activities” that could damage society, especially the Malays.