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China. So back in 2010 the Sri Lankan parliament passed a bill to fully regulate gambling for the first time.


Gambling was not a new notion to the island. Te first casinos opened back in 1977 but were largely unregulated and unlicensed and operated via a loophole in the law. Tere were already casinos and shops where locals could bet on horse and greyhound racing but for years they survived by exploiting legal loopholes and tax evasion.


Te law meant the national government would take charge of all gambling licences whilst geographical zones for gambling businesses were set up.


Te Casino Business (Regulation) Act No. 17 was passed in 2010 that designated areas where casinos could be based and outlawed anyone


P72 NEWSWIRE / INTERACTIVE / MARKET DATA


after 2012 to operate a casino without a valid licence.


Meanwhile there were three integrated resorts planned for the capital city Colombo but a change in government saw the cancellation of all three casino licences whilst also stating there were to be no further casino licences issued.


One of Sirisena’s election manifesto points was to disallow casino licences issued under the previous President’s Strategic Development Projects Act. Sirisena cancelled the three separate licences including Crown Resort’s $400m project for an integrated casino resort which was a partnership between James Packer’s Crown and Sri Lanka’s Rank Entertainment, Queenbury’s (local businessman Dhammika Perera) planned resort due to cost around $300m and Water Front Properties (John Keells Holdings) $850m project.


Te smaller casinos which have operated for decades were allowed to stay open whilst the resorts were given the permission to continue,albeit without a casino floor, but only Water Front continued to develop.


CASINO SECTOR Tere are five casinos in Sri Lanka currently.


Ravi Wijeratne, Chairman and owner of Sri Lankan Rank Holdings, holds the licence for two of the country’s five casinos. Te other three are held by local Dhammika Perera. Wijeratne was issued with his first gambling licence 25 years ago when he bought Star Dust and later built Casino Marina.


Perera is a Sri Lankan billionaire businessman and owner of Vallibel One Group, a holding company with investments in financial services and leisure sectors. He started a casino in 1993 and later opened MGM, Ballys and Bellagio in Sri


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