Football season breeding teenage gamblers

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PETALING JAYA: Children as young as 13 are raking up gambling debts of up to RM100,000 this football season by using their parents’ credit cards to gamble.

The Star spoke to Rev Jimmy Tan, who runs a rehabilitation centre for gamblers in Johor Bahru, who said gambling had become even easier today because of the Internet and smartphones.

He warned of gangs that recruited students as agents to influence their peers to get involved in gambling.

“For each recruit, the agent gets RM200, which is then used to buy gadgets and mobile phones.

“Once a student has been recruited, he is given a link to a website and the log-in, where all he has to do is key in his parents’ credit card number and start gambling,” Tan said.

He also revealed how those who ran out of money, resorted to loan sharks instead, thereby plunging them into even further debt.

Tan, together with his wife Rev Serena Sitoh, used to run rehabilitation programmes for gamblers in Macau and Hong Kong for about 10 years, prior to setting up the Hope Rehab Centre for Problem Gamblers in Johor, in September 2013.

They voiced concerns about the UEFA Euro football championship that they warned would see people borrow heavily from loan sharks for gambling purposes, especially in the final leg.

To date, they have worked with 60 people stricken with gambling issues, aged between 13 and 79, said the report.

The couple use their own funds to run the centre but also welcome donations from the public.

The daily also spoke to MCA Public Services and Complaints Department chief Michael Chong, who said he had received 40 cases of adults falling into debt from football betting, in only the first two weeks of this month.

One case even saw a woman in her 70s, borrowing RM90,000 from 25 loan sharks.