18 Mar 2013

Sri Lanka relaxes taxes for casinos, attracts foreign investment- offers an alternative to Goa, Sikkim casinos

In a bid to attract foreign investment for casinos and to promote tourism, the Sri Lankan government has brought a proposal to reduce taxes on casinos to a mere five per cent and also offer tax holidays and long-term exemptions to those investing in this sector.

According to a recent report in Forbes, Australian casino operator Crown Limited, India’s leading and only publicly traded casino company Delta Corp and certain other Asian companies are planning to open Macau style casinos in Sri Lanka. The report also speculates that American billionaire and casino magnate Sheldon Adelson and his company Las Vegas Sands (LVS) may be interested in starting operations in Sri Lanka as part of his long term vision to target the Indian gaming market.

A 2012 Forbes report also points out that LVS and Adelson are very keen to start casino operations in India and had even requested the Delhi tourism department to allow foreign investment in casinos, but the government has been unresponsive to demands for changing India’s archaic gaming laws.

It remains to be seen whether Sri Lanka will emerge as an alternative and successful gaming destination in Asia given the interest of major global casino companies and reduced tax burden on companies. It may be noted that various casinos flourish in Colombo and other parts of Sri Lanka. In Sri Lanka the first casinos opened in 1977 and the industry was largely unregulated and unlicensed until 2010.

The Sri Lankan parliament however passed the Casino (Business) Regulation Act 0f 2010 (having effect from 1st January 2012) which makes it mandatory to procure licenses from the appropriate Ministry before commencing gaming licenses. Running unlicensed gaming operations has been made a criminal offence punishable with imprisonment upto five years and/or fine upto Sri Lanka Rs. five million.

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