Keells says $850 mln project still viable without casino

Jan 30 (Reuters) – Sri Lankan conglomerate John Keells Holdings said on Friday its $850 million construction project with a casino approved by the previous government is still viable and will continue as planned despite a ban on the gaming facility.

Sri Lanka’s new government has blocked three casinos approved by the former President Mahinda Rajapaksa administration, among them a $400-million project by Australian gaming mogul James Packer’s Crown Resorts Ltd and the $850-million Water Front Properties of Keells.

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Keells said in a statement to the Colombo Stock Exchange that the decision will constrain its ability to command premium rentals from the project but will not impact its viability.

“… the project will still be viable given its diverse portfolio of revenue streams and iconic design,” the company said in the disclosure.

“As such, the project will continue as planned.”

The casinos faced opposition from Buddhist leaders and some of Rajapaksa’s own coalition partners, who feared that gaming could lead to a boom in prostitution and damage values and culture in the mainly Buddhist island nation.

Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe told the parliament on Thursday that tax concessions to the projects had been amended and casino approvals have been cancelled. (Reporting by Shihar Aneez; Editing by Elaine Hardcastle)

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