GEORGE TOWN: Illegal gambling operators in the state can bet on hard times ahead, with the Penang police committed to wiping them out.
As of June 4 this year, police conducted 211 raids on illegal gambling dens in the state and made 315 arrests, compared to 140 raids with 234 arrests for the whole of last year.
In this year’s raids to date, 1,234 simulator machines, slot machines and laptops were seized, against 703 last year.
The latest raid was conducted at a gambling den in Bandar Baru Air Itam on Tuesday night.
State police chief Comm Datuk Wira Chuah Ghee Lye said they had been raiding family entertainment outlets which are licensed by local authorities after receiving public complaints on gambling activities.
He said it was a challenge to bust such outlets because the operators took a lot of precautions. Some of them employ lookouts to warn of raiding parties while others only admit regulars.
“Even if we get in, they will switch off the computers or change the screens to show other games,” he said.
“We have to conduct undercover operations but it’s not easy because the operators and workers can identify us.”
Comm Chuah said the police had even sent gambling experts in to play the games and gather evidence that could be used in court.
He said such outlets could be abusing their licences after getting approval from local authorities.
“We will check on them. We have been carrying out raids and we will continue to do so,” he added.
The outlet raided on Tuesday also hid behind the cloak of a licensed family entertainment centre.
Comm Chuah said police seized 27 gambling machines, a simulator, two magnetic cards and RM410 in cash in the 10.30pm raid.
“We arrested 14 players, aged between 25 and 69, and the 24-year-old caretaker of the outlet,” he added.
It is learnt most of the raids this year were carried out in the north-east and central Seberang Prai districts. In addition to regular anti-vice operations. there were also two special operations involving Bukit Aman’s Special Task Force for Anti-Vice, Gambling and Gangsterism (STAGG) and other government agencies.
Comm Chuah said the public needs to know that in any form of gambling, they will lose out and the syndicate will be the winner in the end.
“If you have lost all your money, the syndicate members would even recommend Ah Long to you,” he said, adding that there should be a concerted effort by the relevant authorities to educate the public on the social ills linked to gambling.
A source said it was very difficult to nail the operators because of a legislative loophole – a 1998 local government enactment allows players to claim prizes or money at such centres although it contradicts the Common Gaming Houses Act 1953.
“Before we could take them to court, the case would be dismissed because the enactment allows it. These are inconsistencies the public is not aware of,” the source said.
Elsewhere, Bernama reported that police arrested 840 gamblers as well as 419 guest relations officers and masseuses in nationwide raids last week.
Inspector-General of Police Tan Sri Khalid Abu Bakar said on Twitter that police also seized 3,206 gaming computers used in gambling activities.
Khalid also congratulated STAGG on its successes.
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