Malaysia's loan sharks are scoring big on the Euro 2004 tournament, as many people who lost bets have borrowed heavily from illegal moneylenders to settle their debts, a news report said Sunday.
Gambling on European soccer is illegal - though widespread - in this mostly Muslim nation, where matches are avidly followed by millions of people.
Many wives and relatives of bettors who recently borrowed from loan sharks are seeking help from the Malaysian Chinese Association, one of the country's biggest political parties, to prevent the lenders from harassing their families for payments, the Sunday Star newspaper reported.
Michael Chong, who runs the association's public complaints department, said some bettors borrowed up to 200,000 ringgit ($A71,000) to resolve their gambling losses swiftly - but they now owed the cash to loan sharks who were also anxious to collect.
"They have no one to blame but themselves for borrowing so much money," Chong told the Star. "It's morally wrong to gamble. But even if they want to, they should do it only if they have the means, instead of jeopardizing their family members."
Chong's party represents Malaysia's ethnic Chinese minority, mostly Buddhists or Christians.
Newspapers often carry reports of Malaysians who incur massive debts and complain of being intimidated by loan sharks with threats of violence and unbearable interest rates.
Malaysian police in recent weeks launched a crackdown on soccer gambling that has netted dozens of suspected bookmakers and led to the seizure of undisclosed amounts of illegal bets.
Parent site: "Focus on Malaysia"