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Malaysian Opposition States Ban Sports Betting

Malaysian opposition-led states have banned sports betting, officials said, following protests over its approval by the central government in the Muslim-majority country.

The opposition-led states of Kedah, Penang and Selangor said they fear betting on sports will encourage gambling, a sensitive issue in Malaysia. Muslims, who make up 60 percent of the population, are not allowed to gamble or bet at all, but non-Muslims can buy lottery tickets, bet on horse races and go to the country’s sole casino.

Ascot Sports, a company linked to tycoon Vincent Tan, announced earlier this month it had received government approval to offer betting services for football and other international sports.

Although it does not include Muslims, the announcement sparked protests by mainly Muslim opposition and private groups.

“We don’t want another problem in this country,” said Muhamad Sanusi Mohamad Nor, an official in northern Kedah state. “Football is for sports, not gambling.”

Penang Chief Minister Lim Guan Eng said the northern state’s large non-Muslim population is free to buy lottery tickets, and sports betting is unnecessary.

“We just want to reduce the activity. It’s excessive,” he said.

An assemblyman in central Selangor state, A. Xavier Jayakumar, said his state would also not allow any sports betting.

None of the officials could say how many betting outlets would be affected by the ban. Opposition-run northern Kelantan state forbids all forms of gambling.

Ascot Sports officials could not immediately be reached for comment. The company said it planned to launch betting in August.

The government said that by legalizing sports betting, it could gain up to $1.2 billion in tax revenues, and that rampant illegal gambling would be curbed.

Malaysia’s three-party People’s Alliance opposition, led by former Deputy Prime Minister Anwar Ibrahim, won all four states in 2008 general elections.

The National Front, led by Prime Minister Najib Razak, has ruled the country since independence in 1957, usually without facing barriers to its policies. It still controls nine of 13 states.

Source : AP

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