Gambling dens are rampant, says campaigner

MACC officers leading a suspect to a remand hearing in Shah Alam today. (MACC Facebook pic)

PETALING JAYA: Gambling dens are rampant throughout the Klang Valley and beyond, says an anti-gambling campaigner, after the exposure of gambling dens in Sungai Buloh in a viral video that accused enforcement agencies of turning a blind eye.

“Every town surely has one (gambling den),” said Mosco Ang, advisor to the Gamblers Rehab Centre Malaysia.

“Ampang, Gombak, Jalan Alor, Chow Kit, Jinjang, Batu Caves, Selayang, Sekinchan, Tanjung Karang, Jenjarom, Pandamaran, Klang, Ipoh, Penang, Butterworth, Melaka…

“It’s everywhere and you cannot count them,” he said. “All these are full of people trying to earn fast money.”

While gambling dens “operate everywhere”, their continued success depends on whether law enforcement in the area is strict or lax, according to MCA Public Services and Complaints Bureau chief Michael Chong.

He told FMT that “normally if the head is strict, the tail won’t play the fool”.

While Chong has seen his fair share of complaints related to forced prostitution, loan sharking and missing persons, Chong said that the majority of complaints to the bureau are about gambling.

“I’d say that 75% of the time when people come to see me, it’s because they have debts with loan sharks or Ah Long who they have borrowed money from because of their gambling problems,” he said.

“This year I have probably had around 150 cases so far, many of whom are in debt because of online gambling,” said Chong, who is reported to have successfully resolved more than 35,000 complaints during his 30 years handling public complaints.

Nine enforcement officers of Shah Alam City Council were arrested by the Malaysian Anti Corruption Commission this week on suspicion of accepting bribes to protect unlicensed businesses in Sungai Buloh, including gambling dens.

A social media user recently exposed the issue with a video that has now gone viral.

A criminologist, Shahul Hamid Abdul Rahim, said illegal gambling continued to be an issue partly because of enforcement officers serving as “protectors” of illegal gambling centres, in return for lucrative remuneration.

“Actually, this activity (illegal gambling) can be eliminated… but some enforcement officers who do not have integrity allow these premises to continue operating,” he told FMT.

“Enforcement needs to be firm and serious to curb this activity from spreading,” he said.

Among the nine MBSA officers arrested in relation to their alleged involvement in protecting illegal business and gambling dens in Sungai Buloh include the city council’s enforcement director.

MACC deputy chief commissioner (Operations) Ahmad Khusairi Yahaya previously said one of the suspects arrested on Tuesday was alleged to have received bribes of between RM300 and RM3,500 a month from businesses in Sungai Buloh, which the suspect then shared with three colleagues who were also arrested.