The government plans to require all eight casinos in Colombo to be located in a new gambling and entertainment district taking shape along DR Wijewardene Mawatha, a lakefront road, Lakshman Abeywardena, investment promotions minister, said. Ballys Colombo is already there and Rank Entertainment Holdings (Pvt.) Ltd. has said it will shut its Star Dust casino elsewhere in the city when its joint venture casino hotel with Crown Ltd. opens in the new zone so it can transfer the license. The government on Thursday approved the transfer of Rank’s site, which is under a 50-year lease from the state, to its new joint venture, Lake Leisure Holdings (Pvt) Ltd., with the lease price set at at 2.785 billion rupees ($22 million).
Abeywardena hinted that the government will raise gambling taxes after the relocation. The base rate was lowered to 5 percent from 28 percent in April to help attract investment. “When we do that [relocation]… we can compare [with] the other countries in the rest of the world and impose a high tax,” he said. “The government will take steps to do that. [The rate] should not be the same, it should be higher. That [rate] can be changed.” The lowering of the tax and the proposed Crown joint venture have stirred up new opposition to gambling from some Buddhist leaders and legislators. Keheliya Rambukwelle, information minister, meanwhile said the government would consider an opposition legislator’s call to set up a casino regulator, a government minister said responding to a call by a legislator of the island’s main opposition.