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Sri Lanka – Muslim Council demands end to Sri Lanka’s casino expansion

By - 5 November 2013

An online petition demanding Sri Lanka’s President Mahinda Rajapaksa scraps plans to permit Crown Resorts and John Keells Holdings to both build resorts casinos in the capital of Colombo has been launched by the Muslim Council of Sri Lanka.

The ‘Stop casinos in Sri Lanka petition’ said: We want the incumbent government to immediately stop the concessions proposed to be granted to hotel projects which will house casinos in Colombo. We also call upon the legislators to immediate ban all forms of gambling including casinos in Sri Lanka as it is against the teachings of all major religions.”

The petition’s organisers are hoping to secure 100,000 signatures, claiming that since the start-up of small scale casinos, the country has seen a rise in major social problems including the sex trade, alcohol and drug abuse, gun culture and many cultural conflicts.

It said the government is now seeking to approve major casino projects under Section 3(4) of the Strategic The Muslim Council said: “This will cause social turmoil and we need to petition the government to first stop the concessions and secondly to ban all forms of gambling including casinos as it is against the teachings of all major religions in Sri Lanka.”

Crown, however, said it was now in the final stages of discussion negotiations with the Sri Lankan Government.

Crown Chairman James Packer commented: “We are hopeful that the Sri Lankan Parliament will soon debate the final regulatory and tax framework allowing the project to proceed. Sri Lanka is a beautiful and unique country, it has overcome a great deal of adversity and is growing strongly, I am confident it has a very bright future. I am extremely excited about working together with the Sri Lankan people, because the country has huge tourism appeal and the potential to develop a mass traveller market. This will be a must see project.”
The US$350m to $400m project by Mr. Packer will see the development of a mixed-resort in the capital Colombo, including a casino, a hotel with a minimum of 400 rooms, convention facilities, restaurants and other associated facilities alongside a specially designed water feature attraction on the Beira Lake.

The opposition United National Party is also not in favour of the project.

Mr. Packer added: “I have said this time and time again. China’s middle class will change the world. There are over 300m middle class consumers in China today – equal to almost the entire population of the US and by 2030, China is expected to have 1.4bn middle class consumers. To put this in perspective, it is forecast that the middle class of the US and Europe combined will only be about 780m. Through their spending power and tastes, this Chinese middle class will profoundly alter every aspect of our economy.”

The project will be completed and open for business in 2016, generating direct employment for 2,600 local employees.

Government spokesman Keheliya Rambukwella said the projects would be granted a partial 10-year tax holiday, however ‘the gaming part of the operation is not covered by the tax holiday.’ The Sri Lanka government wants high-end casinos to boost tourist arrivals to 2.5m by 2016.

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