Malaysia’s Anwar calls for action against news agencies as rumors about Forest City casino spark heated debate

“Those mentioned (in the reports) must take necessary action,” Anwar said on Friday, local news outlet Bernama reported.

Mr. Anwar had previously dismissed the Bloomberg report as a “lie” after it was widely covered in local news and spread on social media.

In a statement issued on Friday, Berjaya denied that its founder Mr Tan was involved in negotiations over the possibility of establishing a casino in Forest City, adding that the report said Mr Tan had not been involved in discussions with the prime minister. It said it contained “inaccurate information” about the suspects involved.

“We would like to clarify that Mr Tan Sri Vincent Tan Chee Yee Woon has not taken part in any such discussion and refutes the inaccurate allegations presented,” the company said. Ta.

forest cityis a marquee development by beleaguered Chinese real estate developer Country Garden, which has largely cut off customer access from its core target market on the mainland of the Republic due to capital controls imposed by the Chinese government. , is struggling to attract buyers for its vast US$100 billion project.
Malaysian Prime Minister Anwar Ibrahim speaks in an interview in Germany on March 15th. Photo: DPA

Gambling is considered a major taboo in Malaysia’s multicultural society, particularly among the Muslim-majority Malay population, and participation in any form of gambling is legally prohibited.

This is also a political challenge that could erode already weak support for Anwar and his government among Malays who voted for a formidable minority bloc of Malay nationalists in the deeply divided 2022 national elections. It is also a point of contention.

Although some argued that casinos would help increase tourism and tax collection, many felt that casinos did more harm than good.

“To revive Forest City, please add one more industry of prostitution. Then change the name to Sin City,” one Azhari Qasim commented on Facebook in response to news of the alleged controversy. did.

Malaysians also questioned the government’s priorities, highlighting a number of issues that require urgent attention as the country grapples with rising costs of living, which have been exacerbated by a persistently weak currency.

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“What we need is more parks, better infrastructure…not casinos,” one Alvin Orr commented in a Facebook post about the alleged casino plans.

Despite widespread public antipathy towards gambling, gambling has long been a highly lucrative industry in Malaysia.

Genting Group, which has operated the country’s only casino in Genting Highlands since 1969, reported total revenue of approximately RM10.2 billion (US$2.1 billion) in 2023 and a tax bill of approximately RM313.3 million in the same year. paid to the government.

Berjaya’s popular sports Toto lottery brand was charged about RM106.1 million in tax in the 2023 financial year, when it had a revenue of just over RM6 billion.

But analysts say the opening of a new Forest City casino may not bring in as much revenue as expected, especially as the Chinese government tightens its crackdown on its citizens gambling in popular tourist destinations across Southeast Asia. He said there is.

“With authorities increasingly warning Chinese tourists against gambling abroad, it remains to be seen whether casinos will be able to revive this mega-project,” said Oh Ai Sun, a senior research fellow at the Singapore Institute of International Affairs. I don’t know yet.”

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Political influence is weighing heavily on Prime Minister Anwar’s response as he struggles to convince Malays, who make up nearly 60 percent of Malaysia’s 33 million people, that he represents their best interests. Observers say it is possible that it could be exceeded.

Mr. Anwar holds the dual role of finance minister and will have the final say on approving casino licenses. Analysts said the issuance of new licenses would not bode well for Malay Muslim leaders.

“I don’t think it’s worth it. [for Anwar] I don’t think casinos will solve the problem. [of Forest City]” said Shaza Farhana Mohammad Shukri, a political analyst at the International Islamic University Malaysia.

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