VIDEO: Govt must ‘come clean’ on casino project – Harsha

VIDEO: Govt must ‘come clean’ on casino project – Harsha

June 20, 2013   04:54 pm

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The United National Party today stated that it’s not willing to accept the explanation given by Minister Lakshman Yapa Abeywardena with respect to the casino that is being set up in Colombo, that it is only an integrated development project.

“There is enough documentary evidence to show that this investment by crown is not only an integrated development project, it is also a casino,” UNP MP Harsha de Silva said, referring to the planned investment by Australian gambling tycoon James Packer’s Crown Ltd.

He charged that the Finance Ministry has instructed the Board of Investments (BoI), in writing, to ensure that if James Packer’s Crown casino invests more than 350 million dollars, that it be given “all kinds of concessions” including income tax breaks and also an exemption from the betting and games levy.

He further said that in most countries casinos are set up in order to increase government revenues and that the tobacco, alcohol and casino industries are the three sources of revenue that the government can always rely on.

De Silva said that despite numerous objections from the civil society, Buddhist clergy and Catholic Church that establishing casinos are not going to be good for the morals and ethics and that it should be reconsidered, “the government seems to suggest that there is no such thing.”

“In fact Minister Lakshman Yapa Abeywardena yesterday said perhaps we can stop local players from entering these casinos,” he said.

The UNP parliamentarian and economist, however stated, that if casinos are going to be introduced in Sri Lanka, the government must establish a casino regulator, impose a minimum 40% tax on casino and also “come clean.”

Harsha stated that there is a gaming regulator in almost every country that casinos operate in and that James Packer is very well aware that he will have to abide by the regulator’s very strict rules and regulations whether it be in his native Australia or anywhere else.

He also called on the government to “come clean” as there is no way this can be carried out by hiding behind their claim that this investment is only an integrated development project. “It is not so,” he said.

The UNP MP urged the government to just be “straightforward” and “upfront” on the matter and also invited the government for a discussion with all stakeholders in the project to find out if there is a way to make it happen. “If not they better take it back.”

Speaking further on probes into accusations of pump and dump and market manipulation at the Colombo Stock Exchange, Harsha de Silva said: “We have no confidence in the Nalaka Godahewa-led Securities and Exchange Commission.”

He stated that the SEC had recently issued their annual report and all they have done is to warn some people and that nobody has been convicted.

In fact people who were found guilty have been appointed to exalted positions in the government, he said. “So you are rewarded for wrongdoing, robbing and stealing.”         

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