Sunday, August 14, 2022

Change of guard in Sri Lanka, setback for Crown Resorts Casino bid

The Sri Lankan Government has dismissed casino bids, including by Australian gaming mogul James Packer, to open one of three casinos in Sri Lanka approved by the previous government.

The rejected bid for a $400 million project by Packer’s Crown Resorts Ltd comes as a widely-expected move by new President Maithripala Sirisena, backing election pledges to cancel the Crown Resorts license.

The January 8 election, won by Sirisena, ended a decade of authoritarian rule by President Mahinda Rajapaksa.

The casinos had faced opposition from Buddhist leaders as well as  some of Rajapaksa's own coalition partners, fearing gaming may lead to prostitution and undermine values and culture in the mainly Buddhist island nation.

Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe said amendments had been made and announced in gazette notices that had provided tax concessions to the projects, including Packer's integrated mixed-development project.

Wickremesinghe told parliament the government had decided to ban the approval for casinos but enabled them to undertake “all other activities," referring to hotel and residential apartments included in the projects.

The details of the projects included Lake Leisure, Packer's Sri Lankan joint venture, the other blocked projects included the $300-million Queensbury resort planned by Sri Lanka's Vallibel One Plc, and a $850-million Water Front Properties of John Keells Holdings Plc, Sri Lanka’s largest conglomerate.


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