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Govt vows to crack down on 'blood sucking' online gambling

Reuters - June 16, 2024

Stefanno Sulaiman and Stanley Widianto, Jakarta – The government has shut down more than 2 million websites offering illegal online gambling services, the communications minister said on Friday, saying the activity was "sucking the people's blood dry".

Online gambling is prohibited in Indonesia, the world's largest Muslim-majority nation, but last year more than 3 million people engaged in an activity estimated to be worth nearly $20 billion, or about 1.5 percent of gross domestic product, government data showed.

"We're waging a universal war against online gambling," Communications and Information Minister Budi Arie Setiadi told Reuters in an interview.

"Online gambling is so concerning, it's sucking the people's blood dry," said Budi, adding that online gambling undermined family finances and often weighed most heavily on women.

"This is a phenomenon that's just the tip of the iceberg."

The issue has drawn more public attention in recent months due to a flurry of incidents.

Last week a policewoman set her husband on fire due to a gambling addiction that she said had left them struggling financially, according to media reports.

Two months ago, the military said one of its officers had committed suicide due to mounting online gambling-related debts.

As well as shutting down some 2.1 million websites, Budi said authorities had frozen thousands of bank accounts and would soon formally set up a task force.

Most of the servers used by gambling sites originate from Cambodia and thousands of Indonesians are working there to operate them, Budi said, without immediately providing evidence.

Economists say the increased popularity of gambling in Indonesia, especially in lower income groups, hurts long-term productivity and traps people in poverty.

Officials have also blamed gambling addiction for rising crime in some areas, a higher divorce rate, and a rise in Indonesians taking out high-interest loans.

"On a macro level, online gambling encourages a lack of productivity," said Mohammad Faisal, an economist at the Jakarta-based Center of Reform on Economics.

On Wednesday, outgoing President Joko "Jokowi" Widodo pledged to launch a task force to tackle the issue.

"Gambling not only bets on money," he said. "Gambling bets on the future, be it your own or your family's, or your children's."

The problem is by no means limited to Indonesia.

China, where gambling is banned, urged the Philippines on Friday to stamp out offshore gambling, describing the industry as a "social ill" that encouraged crimes such as kidnapping, human trafficking and murder.

Philippines President Ferdinand Marcos has said illegal gaming operators, some of them run by Chinese companies, might pose a national security risk.

Source: https://www.thejakartapost.com/indonesia/2024/06/16/govt-vows-to-crack-down-on-blood-sucking-online-gambling.htm