Apr 24, Colombo: Activists of Sri Lanka's main opposition United National Party (UNP) today held a protest against the government's attempt to get parliamentary approval for legislation that would grant tax concessions for two projects to set up casinos and gaming facilities in the country.
Hundreds of Sri Lankan opposition party members gathered at the proposed site of the Crown Multi-Purpose Development Project at D.R. Wijewardene Mawatha in Colombo to protest against the project of Australian gaming tycoon James Packer.
Packer has agreed to invest US$350 million to build a 36-story skyscraper which will be known as 'Crown Colombo' in the heart of Colombo for a casino and gaming enterprise to be opened in 2016. The large scale casino project, which is identified as a mixed development project, has been categorized under the Strategic Development Projects Act.
Earlier, the government granted Packer a 10-year exemption from income tax in addition to a further concessionary 6 percent tax rate for 12 years among other tax concessions. Late the gazette notification granting tax concessions to Packer was withdrawn from parliament due to opposition protests.
The cabinet also approved a similar development by the diversified conglomerate, John Keells Holdings (JKH) to build a multi-function resort at a cost of US$ 650 million.
However, the parliament today approved a new order under the Strategic Development Projects Act, which according to Minister Dilan Perera, will not grant the tax concessions for casinos and starting a new Casino is not allowed under the act.
President Mahinda Rajapaksa today addressing the media personnel also said the government is not in preparation to establish the casino trade in the country.