Malaysia is one of the fastest growing economies in Southeast Asia, actively attracting foreign investment with its diverse population and technological development. Despite the country’s Muslim-majority status, there’s still plenty of room for a gambling industry — let’s take a closer look.
Gambling laws in Malaysia
In a rarity for a Muslim-majority nation, Malaysia regulates several forms of gambling.
Lotteries are permitted in Malaysia by the Lotteries Act in 1952, and horse racing was legalized by the Racing Act in 1961. However, sports betting was forbidden by the Betting Act 1953.
While land-based casino gaming is technically regulated, there is currently only one valid licensee, making for an effective private monopoly.
As so often happens, Malaysia’s gambling laws haven’t been updated since the advent of the internet age. However, while there aren’t any laws that cover online gambling operations, the government retains the right to block platforms based within the country’s borders and forbid Muslim citizens from playing.
The northern state of Kedah prohibited 4D lottery sales points on January 1, 2023 and immediately revoked licenses, triggering criticism that foreign investors would be driven abroad and players would be forced to find illegal options to gamble. Authorities were undeterred; later that month, the Malaysian police arrested over 900 people associated with illegal gambling across the country, confiscating MYR20,984 ($4,915) in the process.
However, despite its desire, the government might simply lack the tech savvy to effectively monitor and control online gambling in the country; as always, the wiser choice would likely be to regulate — an opinion shared by many in the government itself, especially when potential tax contributions are considered.
After an earlier massive crackdown on illegal gambling organizers in 2020, the Malaysian government decided to create new gambling regulations to combat illegal gambling more effectively in 2021. The communications and multimedia deputy minister, Zahidi Zainul Abidin, said that a new licensing system for online operators was in development to replace the 1953 law.
The discussion continued in 2022, with Abidin and Wan Junaidi, minister for parliament and law, insisting on the importance of introducing a licensing system. However, the road to regulation may prove bumpy; the conservative party Parti Islam Se-Malaysia won the national elections at the end of 2022, and we have yet to see how the discussion on gambling regulation will develop.
Today, the only licensed gambling establishment in Malaysia is Resorts World Genting, located in the Genting Highlands Resort, 58 km from Kuala Lumpur in Mount Ulu Kali. The Genting Highlands Berhad company launched in 1965, and quickly obtained permission to occupy the land and construct the resort. In 1969, it had already acquired a gambling license. The project has grown to become an entire microclimate with several hotels, a proprietary transport system, and amusement parks.
While Genting Highlands enjoys international renown, not all the locals can stop in for a spin; Malaysian Muslims are forbidden entry, in accordance with the tenets of the country’s dominant religion.
Such conflicting attitudes toward gambling in the country, however, do nothing to reduce its popularity and players’ demand, which is currently satisfied by foreign brands.
The absence of legislation that applies to modern technology, the cultural acceptance of gambling, and a wide choice of foreign-based online casinos and bookmaker platforms make a perfect combination for a developed, albeit somewhat gray, gambling market.
Malaysians are huge sports fans, and as it normally happens, their love is reflected in their gambling habits, regardless of legal status.
Locals bet on badminton and football, including European events like the English Premier League, but also on domestic favorites in the Super League. Motorsports are also popular and Malaysia even hosts the Formula One Grand Prix and the Motorcycle Grand Prix World Championships.
Besides sports betting, Malaysians also like slots, poker, and, as is common for many Asian countries, live dealer alternatives to real casino games, which are not available for the local audience.
Horse racing is legal and popular. The same used to be true of the lottery — over 680 shops in total were offered by the Sports Toto, a 4D (four-digit) lottery operator — but this vertical faced major government opposition earlier this year.
Malaysia is a melting pot of different cultures and ethnicities.
Of Malaysia’s 34 million people, 6% are Indian, 20% are Chinese, and nearly 70% are bumiputera, a category including a long list of indigenous cultures — Malay among them. Of the country’s 134 languages, the most commonly used are Bahasa, English, Chinese, Tamil, Telugu, Malayalam, Panjabi, and Thai. While the majority of Malaysian citizens are Muslim, there are sizable populations of Buddhists, Christians, Hindus, and others.
The people of Malaysia are predominantly young — only 8% of Malaysians are 65 or older — and tech savvy; 97% of the population use the internet, and there are 141 mobile subscriptions for every 100 people, meaning Malaysians are completely at home accessing the internet, especially from mobile devices.
The local currency is the Malaysian Ringgit, MYR, but the USD is also commonly used there. Besides the classic credit and debit cards, locals use popular payment gateways, such as PayPal, Neteller, Stripe, Worldpay, iPay88 and others. Mobile payments are also popular in Malaysia, GrabPay, Boost, Touch ‘n Go are among popular options. And of course the popularity of cryptocurrency should be mentioned. Impressive 15% of Malaysian internet users own some type of cryptocurrency.
How can Slotegrator help?
From planning to execution, Slotegrator has you covered.
Slotegrator’s legal department provides consultations about regulations and licensing in different countries across the globe. This gives gambling companies the most complete picture of their chosen market of operation, so they can begin the process of strategic planning. Then our sales managers can offer insights on game selection, marketing tools, platform software, and other aspects of a casino business.
If you are still unsure about where to start and how to choose your base of operations and target market, visit our interactive map to scan regulations around the world, or read our analytical articles where we research markets, provide business tips and industry insights, and make overviews of different projects.
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To learn more about where and how to start a gambling company, as well as what an online casino should include, contact our team and get a consultation for free.