Sri Lanka’s Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe said the country does not need investment from businessman James Packer (pictured), chairman of Crown Resorts Ltd.
“Packer is saying he will not come to Sri Lanka. Who asked you to come? Please don’t come,” Mr Wickremesinghe said. “Please don’t come – not in this lifetime,” he added, according to a transcript of a speech released by his office on Sunday, a day after it was delivered.
“We need only good investors… we don’t want an economy relying on casinos,” the prime minister said.
Sri Lanka’s new government declared Mr Packer unwelcome after the gaming entrepreneur pulled out of building a luxury resort there. It followed the government saying it would block any casino component at that development, and at two others that were planned by other investors.
Crown confirmed it had abandoned plans for the US$400 million scheme, which would have included a casino. “We respect the Sri Lankan government’s decision and on that basis our project will not be going ahead,” a spokeswoman for Australia-listed Crown told news agency Reuters.
Mr Wickremesinghe’s initial announcement last week was widely expected following an election pledge by Sri Lanka’s new leader, President Maithripala Sirisena to cancel the casino licences. Mr Sirisena won a January 8 election. He has support from one of several political parties that are led by Buddhist monks.
Two other Sri Lanka casino schemes blocked are those for the US$300-million Queensbury resort planned by Sri Lanka’s Vallibel One Plc and for the US$850-million Waterfront Properties development of John Keells Holdings Plc, the country’s biggest conglomerate.
John Keells Holdings said its project was still viable and would continue as planned despite a ban on the gaming facility, Reuters reports.
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