Government promoting vice
The coalition against sports betting had a low-key launch of the Gerakan Rakyat Membantah Judi (GMJ) this afternoon at a major shopping centre.
Without much fanfare, the launch in front of the Sogo shopping mall in Kuala Lumpur was over in 30 minutes.
However, 10 police officers stationed near the protestors kept a watchful eye over the event which ended without any untoward incidence.
GMJ chairperson Azmi Abdul Hamid said the movement plans to hand over a memorandum to all MPs in Parliament on June 15.
“We will present the memorandum to all lawmakers, whether Pakatan Rakyat or Barisan Nasional, as well as to the speaker of the house.
“This is to mobilise support from all parliamentarians to protest against the legalisation of sports betting,” he told reporters after the launch.
Meanwhile, Shah Alam MP for PAS Khalid Samad complained that the issuance of the sports betting licence to Ascot Sports last month was never put to a debate in Parliament.
“The only people who will benefit from this are the sports-betting operators, loan sharks and the BN government themselves,” he said.
First step to educate the public
Khalid, who is also the PAS central committee member, said that eventually existing legal forms of gambling would also come under the scrutiny of the Islamist party.
“(Opposition to sports betting) is our first step to educate the public,” he said.
Also present at the event were deputy PKR Youth chief Khairul Anuar Ahmad Zainuddin, as well as representatives from NGOs such as Angkatan Belia Islam Malaysia (Abim) and Jamaah Islam Malaysia (JIM).
After the launch, the protestors distribute leaflets to shoppers at the vicinity of the busy shopping mall.
A mammoth rally is in the works for July 3 when GMJ, along with Pakatan Rakyat, will be delivering a memorandum to the king at Istana Negara urging his intervention to halt the sports betting licence.
In the wake of widespread opposition to sports betting, tycoon Vincent Tan – whose Ascot Sports is the sole beneficiary of the gambling licence – pledged to donate over half a billion ringgit to charity.
Multi-billionaire Tan (right), one of the richest individuals in the country, said that he would donate RM525 million to his own personal foundation, the Better Malaysia Foundation.
The amount is the money which he will receive from the sale of his own 70 percent stake in Ascots Sports last month to Berjaya Corp, a conglomerate he controls.
“So you should know that I’m not getting one sen from this deal,” said the tycoon.
He is donating the entire proceeds to his foundation, which provides scholarships and medical assistance, to counter allegations that he has been unjustly enriched by the sale of Ascots Sports.
Asked how the RM525 million sales figure was arrived at for Ascot Sports, he aid it was based on an achieveable profit guarantee of RM125 million per year, which amounted to RM375 million for three years plus a net price earnings ratio of six times.
On the transparency of the Better Malaysia Foundation, Tan said that he will be appointing independent directors as well as having its books checked by audit firms.
No money for political parties
Tan also rubbished claims that he was funding political parties in return for the government’s approval of the sports betting licence.
“There is no money to be given to government officials and political parties, as claimed by this ‘fugitive’ who is hiding from the law overseas.
“These are all wild, baseless allegations and accusations,” he said at a press conference at the Berjaya hotel in Kuala Lumpur this afternoon.
When asked if he would be pressing for a defamation suit against his detractors, the tycoon said that it would be a waste of time.
“Why would I want to take legal action against this fugitive who is nothing but a bankrupt? When I was younger, I always like to sue. But now that I’m older, I’ll just let it go.
Although Tan did not mention any names, it was clear he was referring to blogger Raja Petra Kamaruddin, who has been in “hiding” in London.
Raja Petra had recently alleged that the revenue made from the legalisation of sport betting is to be channeled to the BN’s coffers.
“What he has been saying is absolute rubbish. He should be put into jail with the keys thrown away,” he said sarcastically, at a rare meet-the-press session.
Also present at the press conference was his son, Robin Tan (left in photo), the chief executive officer of Berjaya Corp.
To appeal to Pakatan states
“I hope they will be sensible and fair-minded,” he said.
Tan insisted that the legalisation of sports betting will help curb illegal bookies, who offer cut-throat credits.
“Legal bookmaking asks for cash up-front. It is only when you ask for credit, then they get into trouble,” he said.
He added that illegal bookies work hand-in-hand with loan sharks.
Tan estimated that illegal sports betting in Malaysia amounted to a
staggering RM20 to RM30 billion annually.
By legalising it, he said the government would be able to receive an
estimated annual revenue of between RM1 billion and RM3 billion.
The Pakatan opposition coalition, along with key NGOs, have planned to organise a mammoth rally in Kuala Lumpur on July 3 to deliver a memorandum to the king at Istana Negara urging his intervention to halt the sport-betting licence.
When asked about further legal avenues for Berjaya Corp, which intends to offer sports betting products in 220 of their Sports Toto outlets, he declined comment.
“I will just talk to (the Pakatan Rakyat state governments). I will appeal over and over again,” he said, adding that they will be studying the matter for further recourse.
When pressed for details, he said, “we will cross the bridge when we get to it.”
According to Tan, the legalised sports betting will be ready for launch this September.