Sri Lanka protestors renew calls against Packer’s casino plans


knows that his hotel project in Sri Lanka won’t have a casino in it, but that didn’t stop hundreds of Sri Lankan opposition party members from marching in protest in Colombo, calling the government to make its “no-casino” policy iron-clad.

You can probably excuse the paranoia of the opposition, a lot of whom believe that the government’s amendment of gazette notifications on Crown’s three projects to exclude “gaming” is nothing more than lip service, created with the intention of misdirecting the public for a future turnaround.

“If the government is saying casinos are not allowed for these projects, why can’t government include that clearly and mention in the gazette that these projects will not be permitted to operate casinos?” Harsha de Silva, a United National Party (UNP) legislator told the media at the protest, as quoted by the Reuters.

So there they were, a group of protestors led by members of the opposition UNP marching to the make their voices heard at the site of the proposed hotel project that Crown is developing with local partner, Rank Entertainment Holdings.

The timing of the most recent protest was also done just as the country’s parliament began debating the pros and cons of Crown’s $400 million project. President Mahinda Rajapaksa has said all the right things to the media, and was even quoted as recently as last Thursday as saying that these “new hotel projects will not have any casinos.”

But even if Crown isn’t granted a license, Packer does have a potential loophole to exploit, especially if the government honors existing casino licenses that it has already given out. Remember, the policy that was amended last year was not to issue new casino licenses. As for the five casino approvals that two Sri Lankan businessmen, those are still in play.

One of those two individuals, incidentally, is Ravi Wijeratne, the same guy who owns Rank Entertainment Holdings, which is Packer’s local partner in Sri Lanka. While nothing has been announced nor has there been any concrete speculation on the issue, don’t be surprised if Rank Entertainment uses one of its existing licenses to, as they say in other parts of the world, “help a brother out”.