04/25/2014, 00.00
SRI LANKA
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Sri Lanka closer to legalising casinos

by Melani Manel Perera
The legislation passed by Sri Lanka's parliament gives tax breaks to "mixed development projects". For the opposition, this is part of a strategy to legalise gambling in the country.

Colombo (AsiaNews) - Sri Lanka's Parliament adopted legislation last night that paves the way for casinos in the island nation, a move the opposition plans to fight.

Although President Mahinda Rajapaksa dismissed the opposition's concerns, many organisations and Buddhist monks have decided to continue to oppose legalised gambling, a stance the local Catholic Church has already taken in the past.

The three projects include a US $ 350 million casino by Australian casino mogul James Packer, a US$ 300 million gaming facility called Queensbury by local tycoon Dhammika Perera, and the largest venture of US $ 650 million by local conglomerate John Keells Holdings (JKH) that will also have a casino.

Parliament passed the bill with 71 vote majority: 113 in favour, 42 against and 68 abstentions.

As protests began last year, the government dropped the term "casino" from the draft bill, replacing it with the term "mixed development project", which the opposition deems a mere euphemism that means the same thing.

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