AT a banana leaf restaurant off Jalan Klang Lama, the waiter points to a man concentrating on his laptop. “He’s gambling now,” he says. “He sold his car and a van to pay debts he piled up after only three months of online gambling.” The story is a common one. With Wi-Fi technology allowing any gambler with a laptop to place bets any time or place, online racketeers appear to be one step ahead of anti-gambling laws.
Malay Mail’s investigations into the extent of online gambling revealed property dealers, civil servants and wives of the wealthy who all gamble online. A Malay Mail reporter visited two virtual casinos over the weekend with two regulars who tried their luck with RM20,000 and RM10,000 each. Both lost.
Both had opened an account each at Internet gambling websites in Cambodia and Vietnam after paying a deposit of about RM5,000 with their credit cards. The operators of the online casinos, mostly abroad, appoint agents in Malaysia. The local collectors go to their homes to collect cash and distribute winnings. In other cases, gamblers would, from their personal computers, use credit cards to set up prepaid gambling accounts with those Internet sites. In the course of the betting, losses would be deducted from the pre-paid account, and wins would be added to it.
Some privileged regular customers can play on credit with the risk of agency collectors swiping their property if bills don’t get paid. Malay Mail also discovered that not all online casinos are elaborate. Some put up their neon signs on the world wide web, with perhaps just a modem and a computer and some way to exchange money. One popular site offers blackjack and poker games to patrons and has ambitious plans to add more entertainment. “If you are addicted to a particular casino game and would like to see and play, please email to the address below,” says an onscreen message.
The address, curiously enough, belongs to a computer at the University of Newcastle in New South Wales, Australia. But who’s really running this gaming house Down Under? The university’s system administrator hasn’t a clue. He’s never heard of it.