Vincent Tan’s Ascot Sports gaming licence comes with conditions

  • Business
  • Wednesday, 12 May 2010

KUALA LUMPUR: The sports gaming licence issued to tycoon Tan Sri Vincent Tan’s Ascot Sports Sdn Bhd early this year comes with several conditions attached.

Ascot Sports will be allowed to operate in only 200 of the 680 Sport Toto outlets in non-Muslim areas in major towns and online betting would not be allowed. The Sports Toto games are offered by BERJAYA SPORTS TOTO BHD, a listed company controlled by Tan.

According to sources, these outlets would also be required to put up notices that only adult non-Muslims would be allowed to place bets.

It is also understood that Ascot Sports, which was reissued the licence on Jan 13, is unlikely to be ready for the FIFA World Cup in South Africa, which will take place between June 11 and July 11.

“Ascot Sports has been busy preparing to commence operations but it is expected to start business only in August or September,’’ the sources added.

There has been no official announcement from the Finance Ministry on the award of the licence, although the market and the media have been speculating about it for the past two weeks.

Ascot Sports was first issued a similar licence back in 1987 but it agreed to surrender the licence in 1990 after operating for more than a year in Kuala Lumpur.

The Finance Ministry accepted the decision and granted Ascot Sports the first right of refusal if the ministry were to think it appropriate to re-issue the licence.

The licence was re-issued to Ascot Sports in 2003, but in 2004, the Government decided not to allow it to operate.

Sources said now was deemed the right time for Ascot Sports to begin operating or it would miss potential earnings from the World Cup.

“We have to be realistic as billions of ringgit are placed on bets for sports events. Revenue amounting to hundreds of millions of ringgit could have been collected if a proper mechanism for sports gaming is in place.

“The Internet has brought gaming right into your homes and everyone now has access to gaming, but with a gaming license in Malaysia, it would be regulated,’’ said industry sources.

As it is now, the beneficiaries from sports betting are syndicates, some of which are suspected of being linked to organised crime. There have been unofficial estimates that Malaysians place RM20bil in bets a year with local illegal and offshore bookmakers.

“Governments around the world have chosen regulation and control to stem the proliferation of illegal operations, and at the same time provide additional source of tax revenue,’’ an analyst said, adding that over the last 20 years, countries in Europe, Africa and Asia, including Singapore, had adopted legislative reforms to allow betting in a legalised and controlled environment.

CIMB Research estimates the amount of the Malaysian sports betting market at RM8bil but TA Securities reportedly put the figure at RM612mil, with the assumption that per capita spending on sports betting is RM63.30 against RM127.30 in Singapore.

It is understood that Ascot Sports, which is wholly-owned by Tan, is likely to be eventually acquired by Berjaya Corp Bhd (BCorp), another listed company in his stable.

BCorp yesterday requested for a suspension in trading today pending an announcement of an acquisition from a related party of the company and a capital raising exercise.

“The move will benefit over 90,000 shareholders, if the decision is endorsed. It will certainly be interesting for the market,’’ sources close to Tan said.

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