Indonesia Expands Efforts to Combat Illegal Online Gambling

After a series of murder cases connected to online gambling across Indonesia, President Joko Widodo has announced a new push to tackle gambling activities.

Indonesian president announces plans to come down even harder on illegal online gambling.

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Gambling in Indonesia is strictly prohibited, with severe penalties for those involved. Participants and organizers can face up to 10 years in prison and fines reaching 25 million rupiah. Those distributing online gambling software can be jailed for up to six years and fined up to 1 billion rupiah.

As President Widodo prepares to hand over power to president-elect Prabowo Subianto in October, he has emphasized the importance of avoiding all forms of gambling and released a video urging people to avoid gambling online and offline.

While he acknowledged the challenges posed by the international nature of online gambling, Widodo has called on public figures and religious leaders to monitor and report any gambling activities. This appeal comes even as a multi-agency task force was established to combat online gambling last month.

The Societal Cost of Gambling

Several tragic incidents underscore the urgency of this issue. In East Java, a policewoman burned her husband, a police officer, after discovering he spent their bonus on online gambling instead of essential items for their infants. In another case, a member of the national police counter-terrorism squad received a life sentence for murdering a driver to steal his car, using funds meant for a car purchase on online gambling instead.

In Papua, a navy member committed suicide in April, overwhelmed by 819 million rupiah in gambling debts. The Indonesian Armed Forces have vowed strict measures against personnel involved in such activities following an incident where an army officer in South Sulawesi embezzled 876 million rupiah to support his gambling addiction.

Online gambling has emerged as a significant factor in divorce cases in Indonesia since 2020, causing substantial economic damage. The Indonesian Financial Transaction Reports and Analysis Centre estimated that online gamblers spent 327 trillion rupiah in 2023, a threefold increase from 2022.

More Regulation News

Gambling Adverts on Social Media

Nailul Huda, digital economy director at Jakarta’s Center of Economic and Law Studies, highlighted that online gambling drains money with minimal economic return. She explained that the money goes to other countries and criticized social media platforms for allowing gambling ads.

A February report by the online survey platform Populix found that nearly half of approximately 1,000 respondents had seen online gambling advertisements on platforms like Instagram, YouTube, and Facebook.

In response, Indonesia’s Communications Ministry blocked over 1.9 million pieces of online content promoting gambling between July 17, 2023, and May 21. Additionally, more than 5,000 bank accounts and e-wallets suspected of facilitating gambling activities have been targeted. Despite these efforts, shutting down one site often leads to others springing up.

Nailul insists that the government must enforce the illegality of online gambling in Indonesia and hold social media platforms accountable adding, “The government must tell the platforms that online gambling is illegal in Indonesia. So when they allow it to spread, they indirectly violate the rules in Indonesia”.


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