Online Gambling Law in Malaysia

Online gambling is technically illegal in Malaysia. While
it’s clearly illegal to host an internet gambling operation,
it’s not clear if patronizing a gambling site is illegal. The
laws on the books were written decades ago and none of them
specifically mention the act of placing bets online.

For the most part, online gambling is overlooked and if not
tolerated, at least brushed under the rug. Many Malaysians place
bets over the internet every day. Most of the major
international betting sites accept customers from Malaysia and
even process deposits and withdrawals in ringgits.

However, that doesn’t mean you are completely risk-free in
Malaysia. There are an increasing number of calls to ban online
gambling and Sharia law does hold sway in Malaysia. You have to
decide for yourself if it’s worthwhile. Most Malaysians who
gamble online do so without a worry in the world. It’s easy to
get paid, make deposits, and place bets as long as you stick with
the major names in gambling.

If you do decide to gamble online in Malaysia, it’s best to
stick with international sites NOT based in Malaysia for two
reasons. First, local sites based out of Malaysia are 100%
illegal and operate underground with zero regulation. You have
no recourse if one of those places decides to shut down and run
off with your money.

Second, offshore sites have no physical presence in Malaysia.
Malaysian authorities can’t just hop on a plane to England and
demand that Bet365 hand over its customer information. In other
words, you’re less likely to be “caught” gambling when you do
business with a site that operates legally in a
gambling-friendly nation.

General Gambling Law in Malaysia

Malaysia is a predominantly Muslim country so nearly all
forms of gambling, both online and offline, are considered
illegal. There are three major frameworks that dictate gaming
laws in Malaysia. The most prominent of these is the Betting Act
1953.

Additionally, civil contract law in Malaysia declares that
all agreements made in the form of gambling or wagering are null
and void. This means any person who loses a bet to another
person could refuse to pay up and the winner would have no legal
recourse.

1. Betting Act 1953

The Betting Act 1953 pretty thoroughly outlaws all forms of
gambling. The act even addresses telecommunications and other
means of transmitting bets between customers and betting houses.
The language in the act covers just about all possible loopholes
you would look for in a piece of legislation written that long
ago. Even to this day, there’s no easy way around it.

The act specifies a penalty of up to 200,000 ringgits and 5
years in jail for anyone caught operating a betting house or
patronizing one. It’s unclear if today’s betting sites fall
under the definition of a “betting house.” It could be
interpreted either way.

Here’s how the act defines the term betting house:

(i) any place kept or used for betting or wagering whether
such betting or wagering, be in cash or on credit, on any event
or contingency of or relating to any horse race or other
sporting event or lottery to which the public or any class of
the public has, or may have, access;

(ii) any place kept or used for habitual betting or wagering
on any such event or contingency as aforesaid, whether the
public has, or may have, access thereto or not; or

(iii) 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;

The last four words in that excerpt are the most troubling
for online betting. One could easily apply this law to internet
gambling. The good news for gamblers is that Malaysia doesn’t
bother with individual gamblers. Like many countries, Malaysia
instead targets those who operate or own betting operations.

2. Common Gaming Houses Act 1953

While the Betting Act 1953 was directly primarily towards
sports betting and bookmaking, the Common Gaming Houses Act 1953
covers just about every other form of gambling. This act
criminalizes operating a gaming house and even being caught
inside one.

Any person caught inside a gaming house is subject to a fine
of up to 5,000 ringgits and up to six months in prison. The Act
defines gaming as:

“…the playing of any game of chance or of mixed chance and
skill for money or money’s worth…”

The definition of gaming houses is also explained to great
length. We’ll save you the boredom of reading it all and just
say that it covers pretty much every possible location where
people could gather and gamble. The definition of the term could
conceivably be applied to gaming websites as well, but it
appears that Malaysia has no interest in pursuing individual
online gamblers.

3. Sharia Law

The Malaysian Constitution makes Islam the mandatory religion
for all Malays, who account for over 60% of the population of
the country. Non-Malays (mostly ethnic Chinese, Indian, and
others) aren’t bound by Sharia law, but most of the country is.
This is important to note because Malaysia recognizes Sharia (or
syariah) courts.

Sharia courts and the secular legal system exist side-by-side
in Malaysia. There are debates to this day as to how that should
continue in the future and whether or not the Malaysian legal
system should be secular, religious, or both.

The dual justice system in Malaysia is complex and difficult
to implement. Sharia is mostly reserved for family affairs, but
individual states are allowed to implement Sharia in criminal
justice matters. Gambling is clearly forbidden by Sharia law and
that could also be interpreted to mean it’s off limits for 60%
of the country.