Sri Lanka’s cabinet headed by PM Ranil Wickremesinghe has approved a proposal to issue the nation’s four casinos with official casino licenses in order to make it easier to collect tax revenues. Sri Lanka has a long-standing gambling regulation with the Betting and Gaming Levy Act No. 40 from 1988 and Act No. 17 from 2010.
According to these enactments, the casino operators had to be granted casino licenses in order to run gambling operations in the country but no such licenses were ever issued. However, according to Daily Mirror Sri Lanka, the Department of Government Information noted that no such licenses were issued, which has made it difficult for authorities to collect imposed taxes from the operators. PublicFinance.lk states the Inland Revenue Department has filed cases in the Colombo Magistrate’s Court to recover Rs 2.67 billion in tax arrears from casinos.
This decision comes during a tough period for the country, which is officially bankrupt and is experiencing serious shortages of food, commodities and fuel. This weekend, protestors demanding the resignation of the President, occupied the Presidential Palace and ransacked a private residence of the Prime Minister. The current regime is expected to make way for an all-party government in the coming days.
Last month, President Gotabaya Rajapaksa nominated “casino king” Dhammika Perera as a member of Parliament and as an Investment Minister to work alongside his former foe Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe.
Four of the three casinos – Bally’s Colombo, Bellagio Colombo, and MGM Colombo are owned by Dhammika and he is allegedly the richest man in the country. PM Ranil was a member of the opposition who was sworn in May to assist the President with the crisis.