Lift freeze on cybercafes

Lift freeze on cybercafes

WE refer to the letter “Ineffective raids on cybercafes,” (The Star, July 22) in which the writer questioned the futile raids on illegal cybercafés and wondered if there was any way to counter the mushrooming of computerised gambling dens disguised as cybercafes.

The modus operandi of these gambling dens is to camouflage as a cybercafe, equipped with 20 to 30 old computers that are ready to be carted away during raids.

Their main customers are adults above 30 who can gamble away hundreds, if not thousands of ringgit, in a single session.

As such, their typical RM30,000 to RM50,000 investment can be recouped in a month or two.

A genuine cybercafe would need to have 50 to 70 computers to make it viable.

Competition and games requirements make new computers with high specifications necessary. Multi-broadband Internet connections and printing services are essential to meet customer demands.

Their main customer group is 12 to 30 year olds who typically spend between RM3 to RM6, depending on their length of stay.

The typical investment for one cybercafe is between RM150,000 and RM300,000. High operating cost makes the payback period between three and five years.

The economics, buoyed by ineffective raids, show why computerised gambling dens are a thriving business.

Furthermore, you do not need a licence to operate one.

The irony is that a 12-year-old boy can make the distinction between a cybercafe and a computerised gambling den while a 40-year-old adult can’t.

Misleading reports that schoolgoing children patronise cybercafes and get into gambling, drug abuses and criminal activities only further confuse the public.

We urge parents to visit the cybercafes in their neighbourhood to ascertain the activities inside.

Instead of whining about computerised gambling dens, Persatuan Pemilik Pusat Cyber Selangor has been conducting a free IT training programme, “Celik IT Selangor”, since January to reach out to the public.

Hundreds of adults above 35 have been brought into cybercafes and taught Internet applications like e-mail, google, and YouTube.

Many never operated a mouse or keyboard before.

Since January 2007, the Selangor government has applied a blanket freeze on the issuance of new cybercafe licences to tackle the problem of computerised gambling dens.

The ruling however impeded the growth of genuine cybercafes while computerised gambling dens continued to prosper.

And now genuine cybercafe operators like us have become the minority.

Most cybercafe customers do not own a PC or have Internet connection at home.

We wonder why cybercafes have to close by midnight while karaoke, snooker centres, cinemas, discos, bars, coffeehouses, hawker centres, futsal centres, fast-food outlets and even Mat Rempits can carry on with their activities till the early hours?

We urge the Government to lift the freeze and make necessary changes to the by-laws to steer the cybercafe industry forward.

Our recommendations include increasing the barrier to entry; displaying prominent public notices; and having a more transparent cybercafe operation.

On the other hand, the police must carry out joint operations with local councils, TNB and TM Net to weed out the gambling dens. The public can play a part by gathering information and informing the police.

IR FRANK NG,

Deputy President,

Persatuan Pemilik Pusat Cyber Selangor.

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