First they cut off power supply. Now, authorities in Malaysia have started blocking phone lines that they believe “have elements of gambling,” The Star has reported.
Datuk Seri Dr Salleh Said Keruak, communications and multimedia minister, confirmed on Tuesday that some 12,449 phone lines were blocked by the Communications and Multimedia Commission (MCMC) in the first four months of 2016 as part of the government’s efforts to curtail online gambling operations in the country.
Government agencies including local police have been carrying out nonstop raids to flush out illegal gambling dens, but they said access to gambling sites were now made easier through short messaging services (SMS) advertisements.
Salleh said the commission received and investigated 438 public complaints between January and April involving gambling advertisements promoted using social media like Whatsapp.
MCMC already ordered local telecom companies to cancel over 8,000 phone numbers that were believes to be promoting illegal gambling operations via SMS.
Last August, MCMC said the rise of SMS gambling promos indicates that the government is succeeding in its war against illegal gambling websites. Early this year, the government said it has blocked 399 of such sites, putting it on pace to surpass the 2,200 sites it suppressed in 2015.
Malaysia is a deeply religious country that limits its citizens’ ability to wager. Local Muslims aren’t allowed in the country’s sole licensed casino—Genting Highlands—while religious authorities frown on the use of the three licensed number forecasting operators.
The Malaysian government announced that it will seek to revamp the country’s gambling laws, which were introduced long before the advent of the Internet. Deputy Prime Minister Datuk Seri Ahmad Zahid Hamidi said he’s open to revising the existing legislation and introduce new acts to aid its long-running war against illegal gambling.
According to the deputy prime minister, a huge part of the legislative upgrades would be to provide “heavier penalties, both preventative and punitive.”
In particular, federal police is hatching a plan that would send suspected illegal gambling operators to jail for up to two years without trial with an aim of putting illegal operators “out of business for good.”