New task force goes all in against online gambling in Indonesia


A person looks at advertisements for online gambling websites on his smartphone in Jakarta on June 19, 2024. - Photo: Antara

JAKARTA: A newly formed government task force responsible for curtailing online gambling has ramped up efforts to eradicate the practice by freezing bank accounts and payment services allegedly used for betting as it investigates the cases.

The task force, established last week, includes representatives from the National Police and the Communications and Information Ministry, among other state institutions.

At a press briefing in Jakarta on Wednesday (June 19), Coordinating Political, Legal and Security Affairs Minister Hadi Tjahjanto, who is leading the task force, said the police would investigate whether some 5,000 bank accounts were linked to online gambling.

The accounts were recently frozen by the Financial Transaction Reports and Analysis Center (PPATK) on suspicion of being used by bookies or syndicates organizing gambling operations.

Hadi said his team had found indications that the groups had lured people, mostly living in villages, into opening new bank accounts and selling them to bookies for use in online gambling transactions. Hadi called on the holders of the frozen accounts to clarify what they were being used for.

The task force, Hadi said, had also found indications that people could make payments or deposit funds for online gambling at mini-marts.

“We have enlisted the help of noncommissioned police and military officers assigned respectively as public order officers [Bhabinkamtibmas] and village supervisory officers [Babinsa] to find suspicious activities in their respective areas,” he said.

The Communications and Information Ministry, meanwhile, will block access to gambling websites.

Gambling of all kinds, online or off, is illegal in Indonesia.

Under the Criminal Code, participants in and organizers of gambling events face a maximum punishment of up to 10 years in prison and a Rp 25 million (US$1,520) fine.

The Electronic Information and Transactions (ITE) Law stipulates a sentence of up to six years in prison and a fine of Rp 1 billion for distributing online gambling software.

Despite these punishments, government data suggests that 3.2 million Indonesians engaged in online gambling last year, with an estimated Rp 327 trillion changing hands.

Meanwhile, President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo has dismissed a proposal to disburse social assistance (bansos) to people with debt resulting from gambling disorders.

When asked about the proposal on the sidelines of a working visit to Karanganyar regency, Central Java, on Wednesday, the President answered promptly, “No, there won’t be [any social aid for online gambling problems].”

Last week, Coordinating Human Development and Culture Minister Muhadjir Effendy suggested that aid for gambling disorders should be disbursed through the Family Hope Program (PKH) following several reports of self-destruction and crime linked to online gambling.

The proposal, which stirred debate among policymakers, would include people with debt from online gambling on the list of those eligible for social aid.

Social Affairs Minister Tri Rismaharini welcomed the idea, saying people who had fallen victim to gambling were entitled to receive aid as long as they were categorized as poor.

But Coordinating Economic Minister Airlangga Hartarto said online gambling addiction was not recognized in any existing social aid programs and urged that any proposed changes be discussed with the relevant state institutions.

Muhadjir’s proposal was met with more opposition from legislative bodies, with People’s Consultative Assembly (MPR) deputy speaker Hidayat Nur Wahid of the Prosperous Justice Party (PKS) criticizing the proposal.

He raised the concern that the gamblers would simply use the money for more gambling.

“The proposal [would make] the government permissive of online gambling and does not comply with the spirit of eradicating the crime,” Hidayat said in a statement on Wednesday, adding that the idea could lead to the misuse of social aid.

Muhadjir said in response that his proposal was meant to help the families of online gamblers, not the gamblers themselves. - The Jakarta Post/ANN

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Indonesia , New , task force , online gambling

   

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