IT is an open secret that illegal gambling outlets are operating in the city.
Behind tinted glass panels and locked front doors, these outlets monitor their patrons closely and only allow frequent customers to enter their premises, mostly through the back door.
Operating from shoplots or even in shopping malls, the existence of such outlets is not a new phenomenon.
In Subang Jaya, Puchong and Serdang, the Subang Jaya Municipal Council (MPSJ) enforcement department conducts frequent raids in an effort to root out this unhealthy activity.
As of June 2009, a total of 230 raids have been carried out in the three townships with 3,467 monitors, 3,329 CPUs and 498 chips seized.
However, as MPSJ enforcement director Mohd Zulkurnain Che Ali pointed out, the statistics did not necessarily reflect the actual number of illegal gambling outlets as some raids were conducted on the same outlets.
“These outlets are controlled by syndicates, who can immediately replenish the computers after our raids. Sometimes, the outlets can even reopen on the same night after the raid,” he said.
In a recent case, the MPSJ was informed that two illegal gambling outlets in The Summit USJ reopened for business just two days after being raided by the local authority.
Following a tip-off, a team of 16 MPSJ enforcement officers led by assistant enforcement officer Ainol Salnee made a forced entry into two illegal gambling outlets on July 9 and took away 25 sets of computers.
They also sealed the outlets under the MPSJ Cyber Cafe Bylaws 2007 for operating the business without a licence.
In another raid in USJ 21 on July 14, six CCTV cameras were taken away together with 24 computers and 16 gambling machines.
The cameras were not only used to monitor the people who enter the premises, but also to keep an eye on the enforcement officers who might make a surprise visit.
Other than seizing and destroying the items, the MPSJ will slap the operators with compounds that carried a maximum fine of RM1,000.
There is only so much that the MPSJ can do as their power is limited, unlike the police who can remand and charge the operators, and even cut off the power supply to such outlets.
“It is difficult to trace the business owners as they usually operate such outlets from rented shoplots.
“Furthermore, nobody has ever come to us to claim the confiscated items,” Zulkurnain said.
Thus, the enforcement team is going all out to conduct frequent raids to disturb the smooth-running of the business.
“As MPSJ president Datuk Adnan Md Ikshan puts it, we raid them so often that it affects their business.
“It worked — three illegal gambling outlets in SS19, which we had raised many times, are closed and replaced by other businesses now,” Zulkurnain said.
While the enforcement team keep a close watch on the illegal gambling outlets, some cyber cafes are also offering online gambling games.
“These cybercafes, which appear to be conducting genuine business on the outside, may be providing gambling games, too.
“Our officers have to go undercover and patronise the cafes to find out if such games are available,” Zulkurnain said.
The illegal gambling activity also contributes to social problems.
“The operators serve as loan sharks too, lending money to the addicted customers. The amount they borrow may not be high but the interest is.
“Based on our observation, most of the customers are from the lower-income group. I have even heard stories of their bad habits destroying their families when they spent their salary on gambling instead of taking the money home,” Zulkurnain said.
Foreigners like Indonesians, Myanmarese and Bangladeshis are frequent customers, too.
“The outlets will only cease their operation when the demand drops,” Zulkurnain added.