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Sri Lanka approves casino projects


Published on Dec 20, 2013

Three controversial integrated resorts get the green light

The Sri Lankan government has approved the development of three controversial casino projects.

According to China’s Xinhua news agency, citing a government report, the country has given the green light to a US$350 million casino resort being planned by Australian businessman James Packer, whose Crown empire also has casino interests in Australia, Macau and the Philippines.
It has also approved a US$650m casino project by local conglomerate John Keells Holdings (JKH), and a US$300m gaming facility proposed by Sri Lankan tycoon Dhammika Perera.

These three projects are being presented as mixed developments that would include hotels, casinos, and a range of other facilities.
The approval has been granted however, despite severe criticism of the Sri Lankan government for considering allowing large scale casinos to be developed in the country. In late 2010, the country passed a bill to regulate the gambling industry, in a move intended to boost tourism arrivals. China is one of Sri Lanka’s fastest-growing visitor source markets, with arrivals from the country surging 75% in the first 10 months of 2013. Arrivals from India meanwhile, climbed 9% in the same period.

Speaking at the Commonwealth Business Forum in Colombo last month, James Packer said his casino would help Sri Lanka become “a leading tourist mecca for the rising middle class of India, China and the rest of Asia”.

Several Asian countries, including Singapore, Vietnam and Cambodia, have used regulated gaming to boost their tourism sectors in recent years.

Sri Lanka welcomed one million international visitors for the first time in 2012, and is targeting 2.5 million arrivals by 2016.

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