PETALING JAYA: Offering bigger gains and convenience to punters, illegal 4D syndicates might put local number forecast operators (NFO) out of business if the government does not provide the latter with a level playing field.

While e-betting websites operated by illegal 4D syndicates are unregulated and beyond the control of the authorities, NFO that are bound by strict gaming laws are losing a huge chunk of their revenue to illegal 4D syndicates.

Except for one NFO, namely Da Ma Cai, which has a mobile betting platform, five other legal 4D operators – Magnum 4D, Sports Toto and three other Sabah and Sarawak based NFO – continue to run their businesses the traditional way from physical outlets.

The affected companies have long sought the government’s go-ahead to start e-betting facilities but the proposal has not been successful so far.

The latest blow for NFO came recently when the Kedah government banned NFO in the state.

In the meantime, the 4D black market is cashing in on the ruling and continues to grow in cyberspace while providing more prize money and convenience to punters at the touch of a button, and depriving the government of gaming taxes.

It is estimated that with more than 50 websites and mobile apps run by illegal operators nationwide, over RM5 billion in gaming taxes are lost through the 4D black market, which is said to generate twice the profits of NFO.

Apart from 4D draws by the six NFO, the black market also rakes in higher profits as it offers betting on Singapore 4D games, which are held thrice a week and four Cambodia-based 4D games, which are drawn daily.

Industry players said the Covid-19 movement control order two years ago was a boon for illegal 4D syndicates as they took advantage of the shutdown of NFO and offered punters Cambodia-based 4D games via smartphone apps.

Although police, with the assistance of the Malaysian Communications and Multimedia Commission, have blocked or shut down over 6,000 websites linked to illegal gaming activities since 2019, the syndicates are well-prepared with alternative websites.

These replacement websites often pop up promptly upon the closure of an earlier one, ensuring that gaming activities continue undisrupted.

Universiti Sains Malaysia criminologist Datuk Dr P. Sundramoorthy said with the substantial amount of tax being lost following the 4D black market expansion, it is time NFO receive approval for online betting as well.

He said by allowing NFO to run e-betting facilities, there will be greater control in vetting legitimate punters when they register.

“To a certain extent, this could filter out underage punters and those who are prohibited from gambling, such as Muslims, as it will require them to submit their particulars.

“Punters should also be ethical by turning to legal gambling. Why resort to the black market and label yourselves as illegal punters? Punting on the black market is punishable by law.

“Moreover, if they win large sums, they will have no issues declaring it to the Inland Revenue Board as it was obtained legally.”

Sundramoorthy also said NFO need to revise and raise their prize payouts to compete with black market operators.

He added that the ease of claiming prize money within hours of winning should also be considered by NFO.

“They need to keep up and be competitive with the 4D black market. These additional features and services, which are currently offered by the black market, will enable NFO to minimise the setbacks they face.

“I was invited to speak at a conference for gaming companies held about a decade ago in Penang, and I raised all these matters for the NFO to consider. I believe they
will benefit NFO and adversely impact the 4D black market,” he told theSun.

Former Transparency International president and veteran economist Tan Sri Ramon Navaratnam said Kedah’s ban on NFO is bad for business and can turn out to be “the thin edge of the wedge” that sends out the wrong signals to investors, possibly driving them away.

He urged the state government to be more inclusive.

“Policies at a federal or state level should take multiracialism into account. By all means, ban gambling for Muslims but exempt it for those of other religions.

“What is the logic in rewarding the black market? The higher revenue made by illegal syndicates would just proliferate other illegal activities. Is this what we want? I am not a gambler, but I believe there must always be a level playing field,” Ramon said.

Inspector-General of Police Tan Sri Acryl Sani Abdullah Sani said following the Kedah government’s ban, certain quarters are concerned that black market operators will mushroom in the state due to the high demand by punters.

He said based on intelligence reports, it was found that illegal 4D activities were not widespread in the state but operated surreptitiously.

“We had expected this situation to arise and have increased our surveillance and raids in the state to counter growth and eradicate illegal or unlicensed 4D activities.

“The Kedah CID, with the help of Bukit Aman’s anti-gambling division, has conducted 63 successful raids on illegal 4D operators since Jan 1. We are committed to eradicating this illegal activity,” he said.

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