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Te country’s gambling market saw a legal framework introduced 10 years ago. After the three decade long civil war, the government under previous President Mahinda Rajapaksa actively pursued various ventures to attract tourism and boost the economy. One such area was the growth of the gambling industry with a hope of encouraging visitors from India and China.


Before 2009 annual tourist figures reached around 500,000 at the most. But a steady increase since 2010 shows that today Sri Lanka is one of the best tourist destinations in the world and there were 2.1 million visitors last year. Of this figure there are almost 300,000 Chinese and the aim is to increase this to one million Chinese tourists by the year 2020.


Sri Lanka history spans 3,000 years and was known during British rule as Ceylon. After independence in 1948 the country became a republic and adopted its new name in 1972. President Maithripala Sirisena heads the country.


With a population of over 22 million the country is divided into nine provinces and 25 districts. Te GDP in terms of purchasing power parity is second only to the Maldives in the South Asia region. During the 19th and 20th centuries it became a plantation economy famous for the production of cinnamon, rubber and tea.


By 1977, the free market economy was introduced and although some production remains today the country’s main economic sectors are tourism, tea export, clothing, rice production and agricultural products. Te service sector now makes up 60 per cent of GDP and per capita income has doubled since 2005 and poverty and unemployment have also dropped.


GAMBLING MARKET CHANGES Tere are a number of changes in store on the Sri


Lankan gambling horizon that will affect the casino operators on the island.


At the moment casino operators pay an annual license fee of LRs200m ($1.1m). Tis has recently been doubled under finance minister Mangala


Samaraweera’s suggestions to LRs400m ($2.2m). In addition operators have to now pay 15 per cent in taxes on gambling turnover as from April 2019.


Tere will also be an entry fee for casino visitors of $50 per person per visit as from June 2019. Initially the fee was to be levied on all visitors but was later amended to only target local patrons and as such is designed to discourage local residents and nationals from gambling.


Te moves are among a number of ‘sin’ taxes also slapped on the tobacco and alcohol industries to help pay for public sector salary increases and subsidised loans for small business in the election year.


Te Presidential elections are due to be held before the end of 2019 as Sirisena’s term in office ends on January 9 2020 although he can run for a second term.


In October last year President Sirisena sacked the then Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe that dealt a severe blow to the economy. Sirisena called for fresh elections which triggered a power struggle ending with a Supreme Court ruling that the president had violated the constitution and Wickremesinghe was reinstated.


Te economy in Sri Lanka grew by just three per


cent last year, the slowest growth rate in 17 years whilst figures show the country will have to repay a record US$5.9bn in foreign loans this year. Te government is hoping to collect a total of LRs2.5bn from casino related taxes and fees.


In 2017 the total amount of tax revenue from the Betting and Gaming Levy amounted to LRs1.92bn which was 0.23 per cent of the total tax revenue of LRs836.5bn collected that year. Te majority comes from VAT (53 per cent) and Income tax (27 per cent). In 2016 the Betting and Gaming Levy was LRs1.88bn.


Te gambling sector is taxed via the Betting and Gaming Levy Act No. 40 of 1988 which has seen various amendments. It was the first formal policy of taxing gambling operators. Tere were harsh measures announced back in 2015 including an increase in annual license fees which were never fully implemented.


Te Act currently includes a betting levy of LRs4m ($22,700) via agents or LRs600,000 ($3,400) via live telecast facilities.


Meanwhile, Samaraweera has also announced that cricket betting, operated by two private companies on the island, would be declared illegal in the future. Te ban was requested by the Minister of Transports and Civil Aviation and former cricket captain Arjuna Ranatunga who prompted the government to issue the ban.


It is said the move is down to a lack of regulatory infrastructure. Most horse racing and cricket wagers take place in kiosks and gambling shops but there is no framework in place to regulate the operations.


Tere is also talk of creating a new regulatory framework for the gambling and casino industry to be in line with the country’s anti money laundering laws.


Te country’s gambling market saw a legal framework introduced 10 years ago. After the three decade long civil war, the government under previous President Mahinda Rajapaksa actively pursued various ventures to attract tourism and boost the economy. One such area was the growth of the gambling industry with a hope of encouraging visitors from India and


NEWSWIRE / INTERACTIVE / MARKET DATA P71


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