KUALA LUMPUR: The government has decided not to issue the sports betting licence to Ascott Sports Sdn Bhd.
Prime Minister Najib Tun Razak said the decision was made after taking into consideration the views of various quarters which clearly showed that the majority did not agree to the issuing of the licence.
Najib, who is also Umno president, said the decision was also agreed upon unanimously by members of the Umno supreme council which met last night.
"Since the approval was decided in principle and a survey was carried out, although there were groups who supported as well those who did not support or opposed the decision, it was clear to the government that a majority of the people did not agree that the licence be issued to Ascot Sports.
"As such, I hereby wish to announce that the government has decided that the licence will not be issued," he told reporters after chairing the meeting.
Najib said the licence was issued in 1989 but the company had returned it to the government in 1990 after suffering huge losses.
Since then the company had tried to renew the licence a number of times but only recently the government had approved the issuance of such a licence in principle, based on a number of terms.
Najib said the government's aim was to control illegal betting that was said to be in the region of RM10 billion, as well prevent other social problems.
At the same time, the prime minister said the government had also decided that Muslims were totally prohibited from being involved in any sports betting whether buying, working or becoming a member of the board of directors in a betting company.
"This condition was firmly specified by the government," he added.
When asked whether the decision was agreed upon by other Barisan Nasional (BN) component parties, he said they all accepted the decision in the interest of the nation.
Najib, who is also Finance Minister, emphasised that Ascott would not be paid any compensation because the Finance Ministry had the right to revoke any gambling licences issued.
He said Ascott had also been informed of the decision and it understood why the government did not issue the licence.