Four Malaysian soccer legends yesterday threw their support behind a proposal to legalize sports betting ahead of the World Cup finals in South Africa.
The former players said legalizing sports wagers would reduce rampant illegal betting and match-fixing, but some also warned it could encourage people to go into debt.
Last month the New Straits Times newspaper said sports betting may be legalized in time for the World Cup which is being held from June 11 to July 11.
It said the Berjaya Group, a major Malaysian conglomerate with holdings ranging from lottery to casino operations, was seeking government approval to operate sports betting activities.
Soh Chin Aun, a former captain of the national team in the 1980s, said people will probably indulge in illegal gambling if there is no legal option.
“I don’t see any harm. If you don’t legalize, people will participate in illegal gambling,” he said. “It should be legalized.”
Veteran defender Santokh Singh, 58, said that legalizing betting could prevent match-fixing scandals.
“I think it is better for us to legalize betting. There will be no corruption and no match-fixing,” he said.
Former striker James Wong, 56, welcomed sports betting but cautioned it could cause “some harm” to society.
“Some people may take loans to gamble. Legalizing betting may encourage people to bet,” he said. “But it could help fight match-fixing which is the biggest evil in football today.”
Hassan Sani, 52, another ex-player, said: “Authorities should legalize betting. It will stop illegal betting.”
The Berjaya Group made a similar proposal a few years ago but then prime minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi shot down the request.
Gambling is forbidden in Islam and Malaysia has a large Muslim population.
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