Malaysia is an attractive gambling market for online casinos with a population of nearly 30 million people and a relatively high per capita GDP. However, strict gambling laws make Malaysia a challenging market for the world’s major gaming brands.
Malaysian casino sites are not permitted by law, but many offshore gaming companies accept Malaysian customers nonetheless. These foreign online casinos contend that they adhere to all laws in their home countries and that Malaysian law has nothing to do with them. Malaysian authorities do occasionally raid local underground gambling operations but have so far had little success in stopping people from playing online.
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Malaysian Gambling Legislation
The two laws that most shape gambling in Malaysia today are the Common Gaming Houses Act 1953 and the Betting Act 1953. The Common Gaming Houses Act deals primarily with gambling games while the Betting Act deals primarily with sports betting. Taken together, the two acts work to prohibit most forms of real-world and online gambling in Malaysia.
The Common Gaming Houses Act has been amended multiple times since its inception (most recently in 2006), but to this day it does not specifically mention the internet. Even so, authorities do not permit online casinos in Malaysia. In October of 2016, the Inspector-General of Police made it clear that there are no plans in place to legalize Malaysian online casinos and that they do consider it an offense to participate in internet gambling.
The Betting Act 1953 was written way before the internet was even a dream, but the act does apply to Malaysian casino sites as written today. In particular, the definitions of “betting information centre” and “common betting house” can be easily applied to online gambling sites in Malaysia.
According to the Betting Act, a betting information centre is defined as:
“…any place kept or used for receiving or transmitting by telephone or other means any information relating to any horse race or other sporting event for the purpose of betting or wagering in contravention of this Act.”
Likewise, a common betting house is defined as:
“…any place used by a bookmaker for the purpose of receiving or negotiating bets or wagers on any such event or contingency as aforesaid, whether such bets or wagers reach the bookmaker by the hand of the person placing the bet or his agent or the bookmaker’s agent or through the telephone or the post or by telegram or by any other means.”
Malaysia’s legal system also applies differently to native Malay Muslims and non-Muslims. There are a few limited legal options open to non-Muslims, but all Muslims (both native and visiting) are strictly forbidden from participating in any form of gambling – even the few forms that are legal in Malaysia.
Is it legal to gamble online in Malaysia?
The Malaysian government insists that online gambling is prohibited for everyone. If you do decide to visit an online casino, you should be aware that you are committing an offence and should assume there is some level of risk.
Having said that, we do not believe Malaysian authorities actively seek individuals participating in online gambling from the privacy of home. It appears that Malaysia follows a similar strategy to most other countries that prohibit internet gambling – which is to focus their efforts on stopping internet gambling at the source rather than targeting end users.
We have been unable to find a definitive news report of someone being arrested for merely placing bets online with offshore casino sites. There are regular news reports of people being arrested for organizing gambling activities, but no reports of people finding themselves in trouble for acting solely as customers of gambling websites.
Legal Retail Gambling in Malaysia
Malaysia does offer a few forms of legal retail gambling for the non-Muslim population. Horse racing betting is permitted at authorized tracks along with several sanctioned lottery games such as the Sports Toto, Magnum 4D, and Da Ma Cai.
Resorts World Genting in the Titiwangsa Mountains is the solely authorized casino in Malaysia. Resorts World was conceived by Malaysian businessman Lim Goh Tong in the 1960s. He risked everything he had to build the remote resort, convinced the government to grant him a gambling exemption, and eventually completed the resort in 1971. It would help make him into a billionaire and the richest person in Malaysia during his lifetime.
Resorts World Genting is now a major tourist attraction with hotels, theme parks, concert venues, nightlife, shopping, and, of course, a large casino. The casino does conform to all gambling laws and as such bans Malay Muslims from entering. Non-Muslims and foreigners age 21 or older are all permitted to enter the casino and gamble.
Wes Burns co-founded OnlineCasinoSites.com with a mission to help gamblers understand and navigate the regulated online casino market in all countries around the world. Wes is a respected gambling journalist, working in the industry since 2008.