The game’s over, says Wong

Minister says ‘Da Ma Cai’ operation in the state illegal; enforcement to close outlets soon

The outlets offering ‘Da Ma Cai’ numbers forecast games in Sarawak are illegal and must go, it was declared yesterday.

Environment and Public Health Minister Dato Sri Wong Soon Koh yesterday put to rest any doubts about the government’s position on the legality of these outlets which had sprouted in the urban centres statewide when he said: “Sarawak government does not welcome any new gambling outlets to be set up since 2004.”

He said Chief Minister Pehin Sri Abdul Taib Mahmud had “specifically instructed him to deal with this issue”, which might lead to other social problems if left unattended.

Wong said a series of joint operations by the local councils and the police would soon be carried out to close down the illegal outlets offering the Pan Malaysian Pools Sdn Bhd’s (PMP) ‘Da Ma Cai’ lottery tickets using the Telelink service.

“Based on three documents issued and recorded by the state cabinet, former state secretary and the Ministry of Finance Malaysia, no new applications on gaming outlets will be approved,” Wong told a press conference after an official visit to the Sama-rahan District Council here.

On the three documents, the minister said the first was issued on March 20, 2003 which said the state cabinet decided to stop issuing licences to set up new gaming outlets while the second circular dated March 31, 2004 issued by the then state secretary Tan Sri Datuk Amar Abdul Aziz Husain was to request all local councils to take appropriate action against these illegal outlets.

The third official document dated Jan 28, 2004 was issued by the Ministry of Finance Malaysia to reject all applications to open new gaming outlets in Sarawak, he said.

“Maybe the local councils have yet to be properly briefed on their roles but we will have joint operations with the police to do what is necessary,” Wong, who is also Second Finance Minister, said.

Asked whether the Inland Revenue Board (IRB) had issued any trading licences to those outlet operators, he said: “I don’t know. You (journalists) should ask Inland Revenue Board.”

Wong called on Sarawakians to cooperate with the local authorities and run businesses within the legal framework.

“Many people like to do business and my advice to them (businessmen) is not to operate business illegally,” he said.

In a related development, PMP indicated in a press statement faxed to The Borneo Post yesterday that it had nothing to do with the illegal Telelink outlets.

“We wish to state that PMP, the authorised sole and exclusive agent of Lembaga Totalisator Malaysia to conduct the 3D and 1+3D Numbers Forecast Games, has not appointed ‘Da Ma Cai’ selling agents in the state of Sarawak,” it said.

The Borneo Post had learnt that there are plans to open some 40 new Telelink outlets in the state but it is unclear if a person or a group of people are orchestrating the opening of the new outlets.

It is also learnt that a paid-up capital or investment of RM1.5 million is required to open each of the new outlets. Some investors are said to have already forked out a deposit of about half the required amount.

‘Da Ma Cai’ is like other lotteries except for one major difference — punters who have an account with Telelink need not go to a gaming outlet to buy the tickets.

The Telelink service is an electronic gambling service which enables punters to register an account through the Internet. Once registered, the punter can buy numbers just by calling its call centre, or by SMS text.

In that sense, PMP does not have to be physically present in Sarawak to sell ‘Da Ma Cai’ and for that reason, it is also not subjected to the sales tax imposed by the state government on gaming companies.

Sports Toto Malaysia which operates, among others 4D Toto and 6D Toto; Magnum Corporation Sdn Bhd which operates Magnum 4D; and Natural Avenue, the Special Cash Sweep, are all licensed to operate in Sarawak, hence subjected to the tax and which is why a RM1 bet costs 10 sen more in the state than in the peninsula.

There is apparently a loophole where the state’s laws on gambling are concerned and it might be timely for the state legislature to amend the laws to cover electronic gambling or services like those provided by Telelink.

The legality status of the Telelink outlets came to light when Sibu Municipal Council deputy chairman Daniel Ngieng raised his concern during a dialogue with Wong last week about the number of school children getting involved in electronic gaming.

No comments: