Sri Lanka has just imposed a US$100 entry levy for casinos, according to an amendment to the country’s Betting and Gaming Levy Act quoted by several local media. The levy covers foreigners as well as locals.
The amendment, gazetted on March 30, states: “Every person who carried on the business of gaming in Sri Lanka for any year commencing on or after January 1, 2015, shall collect a levy of US$100 or its equivalent in any other convertible foreign currency or in Sri Lanka currency from any person who enters such place of business of gaming.”
The local media reports do not indicate whether the fee is payable per 24-hour period or every time a customer enters a casino building.
Only casino employees and management, and government officers authorised to enter casinos in the course of their official duties are exempted from the fee.
The amendment to the Betting and Gaming Levy Act also included major increases in the annual levies for bookmakers.
Sri Lanka first mentioned imposing a casino entry levy in October last year – the announcement was made by then-president Mahinda Rajapaksa. He lost the January presidential election.
Singapore was the first major gaming jurisdiction in Asia to adopt a casino entry levy system. But Singapore’s fee is only applicable to Singapore citizens and permanent residents.
The Lion City imposes on such persons a statutory entry levy of either S$100 (US$80) for 24-hour access, or S$2,000 for a year’s entry but is content to give foreigners free access.
Since coming to power in January, Sri Lanka’s new leader, President Maithripala Sirisena (pictured), has been pushing ahead with a number of policies described by industry observers as hostile to the country’s casino industry. Elements among his supporters, including Buddhist leaders, fear that an enlargement of the casino gaming industry would damage community values and culture in the mainly Buddhist nation.
Mr Sirisena’s government decided to block three major casino projects in the South Asian island-nation that had been given the go-ahead by the previous government.
Among the projects affected by the Sri Lankan government decision was Australia’s Crown Resorts Ltd’s proposal for gaming in a US$400-million resort in Colombo. Crown is led by Australian entrepreneur James Packer, and is a joint venture partner also in the Melco Crown Entertainment Ltd casino development business operating in Macau and the Philippines.
Two other Sri Lanka casino schemes blocked were 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.
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Wilfred Wong Ying Wai
President and chief operating officer of Macau-based casino operator Sands China