Sri Lanka: Government planning to set up casino regulatory body

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The State Minister of National Policies and Economic Affairs and Chairman of the Committee on Public Finance, Dr. Harsha de Silva, reportedly stated that no casino license is issued in any nation without a casino regulatory authority.

According to other officials, other than the tax paid to the Inland Revenue agency, there are no further regulations governing the operation of casinos. However, they have now taken steps in that direction.

Four casinos are currently operating in Sri Lanka’s capital Colombo. The government has agreed to issue new casino licenses in line with the law made back in 2010 that requires licenses to operate.

According to recent reports, the finance committee does not know how much tax, if any, has actually been collected from casino operators. They believed that a casino monitoring body could help to resolve the issue.

Estimates suggest that around $7.4 million in taxes are owed to the government and the plan to issue of new licenses and setting up a regulatory body can help ensure the payment of taxes by the casinos.

The decision to legalize gambling in the nation would reportedly involve licenses lasting up to 20 years, with a five-year renewable license costing $1.36 million. Businesses will have the option of applying for licenses in increments of five years, with fees paid in advance.

Another condition to get license is that ‘soliciting for the purpose of prostitution’ does not happen on the casino premises, along with drunken or disorderly behavior. The new plans also did not disclose whether new stakeholders will be allowed to enter the market.

This move to set up a regulatory body and issue new licenses came a month after Dhammika Perera became the country’s finance minister. Perera, who holds three of the country’s four casino licenses, is operating Bally’s Colombo, Bellagio Colombo, and MGM Colombo.

Reports have also revealed that a $1.4 billion China-backed project with a casino was approved back in May 2021 and a $1 billion renovation of the Colombo Lotus Tower with a casino has also been approved.

Recently, Sri Lanka also defaulted on $51 billion in international debt and has asked the International Monetary Fund (IMF) for assistance. Perera was given the task of reviving the country’s faltering economy.

The country was ready to legalize gambling in 2015, but the change of rule prevented the construction of three new casinos, including one financed by Crown Resorts.