PETALING JAYA: Things have gone quiet on the illegal gambling scene in Selangor with the police running down every lead in a bid to close down these outlets.
The Star reported in July that business appeared to be thriving for vice den operators as they shifted their operations from shoplots into malls.
After a brief quiet spell in May and June following a police crackdown, illegal gambling outlets had started to mushroom in the Klang Valley again.
Checks by The Starprobe Team revealed that the operators became creative by opening outlets in shopping complexes, condominiums and even a five-star hotel.
Their clients, mainly habitual gamblers, range from students to working folk, and even foreign labourers and illegal immigrants.
Not only that, the dens that operated in shoplots at commercial areas and housing estates in Petaling Jaya, Subang Jaya, Shah Alam, Puchong, Kajang and Selayang also reopened a couple of months ago.
However, almost all have closed down again as the police operations gained strength the last month or so.
Except for the cashiers who are mainly locals, most of the other staff are foreigners who are easily available cheap labour.
At one outlet in a mall, a worker said the place was closed because they had heard about the police operations and did not want to be open during a raid.
“But this will only be temporary,” he claimed. “We will surely reopen.”
He said there had been only one outlet in the mall in Klang but there were five or six gambling outlets on the same floor. However, all are closed now.
When The Starprobe Team visited some of these premises a few months ago, a large number of foreigners could be seen placing bets and middle-aged Malaysians were also a common sight. Most of the gamblers were in their 30s to their 50s.
The major difference between the gambling dens at shoplots and the ones at malls is the electronic games.
Thanks to the relatively larger floor space at the malls, gamblers were offered a wider choice of games in electronic betting consoles housed in cabinets that are able to seat eight customers at a time.
Aside from games of chance like slot machines and roulette, other games included car racing, martial arts and football games.
Each gambler had to deposit at least RM10 to play, with bets set at a minimum of RM1.
Besides betting on individual games, gamblers also stood to win special jackpot prizes of up to RM10,000 and even a “bonanza prize” of a motorcycle.
The operators also offered refreshments like cold drinks, coffee and tea and snacks such as fried noodles, nasi lemak bungkus, sandwiches and cakes to draw in the crowds.
Most premises offered a free flow of refreshments especially during the day when the crowd is generally smaller.
It was also found that a prominent hotel in Klang was turned into an illegal casino.
At least six separate dens were found operating at the ground floor of the hotel with “snooker centre” elements on its facade.
A seasoned gambler said that an average outlet could rake in at least RM50,000 a day.
A busy shopping mall in Klang was also found with six outlets offering illicit betting games.
They were located on the fourth floor where a popular cinema also operates. One outlet was disguised to look like a family amusement centre.
A popular mall in Kajang which is located next to a cinema also offered gamblers wide choices. A hidden entrance by the car park was used to admit customers after the complex was closed for the night.
A Malaysian working at one vice den said customers were safer at the mall than in shoplots because they were in a closed and controlled environment.
“It is not easy to raid our premises because we are on the upper floors. Customers realise this, so the demand (for illegal gambling in malls) has gone up,” he said.
At another outlet, a young man who appeared to be the owner claimed his business was approved by the local authority.
“We have a licence. You do not have to worry about your safety,” he said.
He may have spoken too soon. The cops are having none of that.