June 7 (Reuters) – Malaysia has yet to issue a sports betting license amid growing public anger in the mostly-Muslim nation, a news website reported on Monday.
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Malaysiakini.com cited Prime Minister Najib Razak in a written reply to MPs as saying that the government had not yet finalised the terms and conditions of the permit that was supposed to awarded last month to Ascot Sports Sdn Bhd, a betting operator.
“The government is still sourcing feedback from various quarters for the proposal to license bookmaking in Malaysia, with the aim of reducing and subsequently eradicating illegal gambling,” Malaysiakini quoted Najib, who is also Finance Minister, as saying.
Ascot, acquired last month by Malaysian gaming group Berjaya Corp (BGRO.KL) from its major shareholder — tycoon Vincent Tan, was expected to kick start its sports betting operation in the second half of this year. [ID:nSGE64B0HI]
Tan also controls Berjaya Sports Toto (BSTB.KL), one of three number forecast operators in the Southeast Asian country dominated by Muslims who are forbidden to gamble under Islamic laws.
Shares of Berjaya ended down 0.7 percent on Monday compared to the broader market .KLSE that fell 0.6 percent.
News of government plans to legalise sports betting in time for the World Cup surfaced in May and had sparked some protests across Malaysia.
Analysts say the value of the Malaysian sports betting business, long controlled by illegal syndicates, could range from 612 million ringgit to as much as 8 billion ringgit ($191.1 million – $2.50 billion)
(Reporting by Niluksi Koswanage)