Jun 24, 2010

Tun Mahathir : I would have approved betting licence

KUALA LUMPUR, June 23 — Former Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad said he would approve the widely unpopular football betting licence if he were still in power.

“If I am the government, I will approve it,” he said in Putrajaya today.

He said the government should not stop those who are permitted to gamble.

“The Chinese always gamble, it isn’t haram for them. Why stop them?

“Why should we stop them? We can’t stop them from eating pork because for them it’s not haram,” he said.

Tan Sri Vincent Tan’s Berjaya Corp had reported last month that the government had re-issued the licence to Ascot Sports Sdn Bhd — also controlled by Tan — after the original licence was cancelled by the previous administration under Tun Abdullah Badawi.

The listed company had proposed in a filing made to Bursa Malaysia on May 12 to acquire Tan’s 70 per cent stake of Ascot Sports for RM525 million. The remaining 30 per cent would remain under the control of his son, Datuk Robin Tan Yeong Ching.

However, its status has been called into question by the Finance Ministry’s recent denial that it had issued the licence to Ascot Sports following public uproar at the legalisation of another avenue for gambling.

Long-time Mahathir associate Tan had first obtained the licence from the feisty veteran politician himself but had “asked the government to take it back” when the venture was unsuccessful.

But he has now obtained the right to get the licence back and was exercising it.

Dr Mahathir said last Monday that Pakatan Rakyat’s objections to the re-issuance of the sports betting licence was not driven by religious reasons but, rather, political ones.

“The objection is political, not Islamic,” he had said.

“Even the DAP is protesting, as if the DAP too is supporting Islamic teachings. This is the politics of the opposition parties which are looking at issues (for political mileage).”

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