COLOMBO (REUTERS) – Sri Lanka’s parliament approved a US$400 million (S$502 million) development by Australian casino operator Crown Resorts Ltd on Friday, but said it would not be allowed to open a casino there.
The hotel and shopping complex proposed by Australian gambling tycoon James Packer’s company is opposed by religious leaders and opposition parties who fear it will eventually be allowed to operate a casino, something they see as a threat to traditional Buddhist morality.
Economic Development Minister Basil Rajapaksa said that would not happen. “We will not allow casinos. I emphasise that. They (investors) asked (for permission for casinos), but we did not grant permission and we will not allow it in future either,” he said at a heated debate in parliament.
Opponents expressed scepticism, noting that excluding a casino at the resort had not been written into law. “Why is the honourable minister misleading this house, the entire country, and the Buddhist clergy? I have the gazette with me,” opposition lawmaker Joseph Michael Perera told parliament, referring to the official journal that publishes legislation.