Authorities throughout the East have been cracking down on illegal gambling operations recently. Malaysian police shut down an illegal online casino, and 133 people were arrested in Mumbai, India.
Police in Malaysia’s capital Kuala Lumpur announced that they had arrested five people in connection with an illegal online casino that authorities claim was making profits of RM3.3m (US$794k; £607.5k) per month. The arrests came after a tip-off by a customer who was just one of the thousands who received a promotional text message from the company.
Malaysia has never been big on online gambling and has given harsh penalties to operators who promote themselves via text messages. Only a few years ago, the Malaysian Communications and Multimedia Commission embarked on a wholesale purge of mobile phone numbers linked to illegal gambling promotions.
Kuala Lumpur Police Chief Commissioner Datuk Seri Mazlan Lazim told local media that the operators of the gambling ring used a GSM SMS blasting device to send “hundreds of thousands” of text messages promoting the online casino to random phone numbers in Malaysia and China.
It is thought that the ring had been in operation for about a year, working out of an apartment that served as their “customer service department.” The customers who responded to the text messages were given details on how to open an account and deposit cash.
A customer service department
The police believe that the ring had been running for as much as a year, working from the apartment that was raided. This was their “customer service department,” the commissioner said.
The suspects helped potential punters who responded to the text messages to open a new account and deposit cash. From information on seized computers and mobile phones, it is thought that the illegal gambling ring had over 20,000 clients with potential deposits of over RM120k ($28,900; £22,112) a day.
All gambling took place via an unnamed website, but the police are keen to find out more, including how they came to spam customers. It has been confirmed that the gambling ring used Chinese bank accounts for accepting deposits and paying out winnings.
Over in Mumbai, police have arrested 133 people for gambling offenses. Reports are still coming in, but local press accounts indicate that political leaders were among those detained.
The group was held for investigation on Sunday after information about illegal activities at the Sea Princess Hotel in Juhu was passed to police.
Gambling in India is heavily restricted except for specific categories including lotteries, horseracing, and rummy, a card game the Indian Supreme Court describes as a game of skill. Some states do allow gambling to take place during festivals, such as Holi and the recent Diwali, but only among friends and not in a public space.
As the leaders would know, gambling during Diwali has religious connotations and is considered auspicious. Even the courts have ruled that any person found to be using his home for gambling during Diwali will not be in breach of the law, but the hotel may have pushed this too far.
The report follows arrests in Goa last weekend, where 11 individuals were held, and around $2,468 (£1,888) was seized after a police officer found an active card game during a routine patrol.