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From innocent video games to illicit gambling dens

PETALING JAYA: Operators of illegal gambling outlets have hit upon a new way to hoodwink enforcement authorities by adding a betting element to innocent-looking video games.
Ean Yong Hian Wah, the Selangor state executive councillor for local government, new village development and legalising of factories, said this made it difficult for authorities to catch the culprits in the act of conducting illicit gambling activities.
He said the exterior of the converted arcade machines remain the same, with additional software put in to add a gambling element to the game.
"Some amusement centre operators have resorted to doing this in order to turn their centres into gambling dens," he said, adding that the licences of those caught doing so would be terminated.
However, Ean Yong admitted that local authorities face a big challenge in curbing illegal gambling because they have no power to arrest suspects and charge them in court.
The councils are only empowered to close down such premises.
"Only the police have the power to determine the presence of illegal gambling activities and act accordingly," he said.
The Star reported on July 15 that the state government had stepped up raids on illegal outlets in the first five months of this year compared to the previous year.
There were 1,854 raids conducted, a 13% increase from 1,641 in the same period last year.
Local councils also seized 20,620 machines and confiscated about RM145,000 in cash.
Selayang MCA and Umno leaders have hit out at the state government for not taking stern action to stem the spread of illegal gambling dens in many parts of Selangor, including Rawang.
Selayang MCA Youth chief Chan Wun Hoong said the state has the authority to take action on gambling dens by closing them down and sealing the premises.
"If this is done on a regular basis, surely operators would have to shut down as they would lose customers and their assets like the gaming machines," he said.
"The state should be responsible and not point fingers at the police. If the councillors in each area know about these gambling dens, they should act by complaining to the local council and police," he said.
Selayang Umno deputy division chief Datuk Md Nasir Ibrahim said the assemblymen and councillors should be blamed for the proliferation of gambling dens in the state.
"They are running the state and should take care of its people's welfare," he said.
"The state should not issue licences for entertainment centres or cybercafes without thoroughly checking the applications first.
"Those from the middle and low income group get hooked on gambling, giving rise to social ills like robbery, snatch theft, borrowing from Ah Long, and prostitution.
"Stop making excuses and start taking stern action against gambling dens," he said.

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