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Pressure mounts against planned Packer casino

Sri Lanka’s main opposition party has called for police to take legal action against James Packer, saying his family business, Crown Limited, doesn’t have the proper license to go ahead with its plans to build a $400 million (€335 million) casino in Colombo.
James Packer
Kin Cheung/AP/Press Association Images

Sri Lanka’s main opposition party has called for police to take legal action against James Packer, saying his family business, Crown Limited, doesn’t have the proper license to go ahead with its plans to build a $400 million (€335 million) casino in Colombo.

Harsha de Silva, a lawmaker for the United National Party, said police had been cracking down on small time casinos and should be applying the same law to big players like Packer.

Last week 43 people were arrested for unlawful gaming at an illegal gambling centre in Colombo.

Packer revealed last month that he had been in talks with the government regarding the development of the 450-room resort, which he says will bring 2,500 jobs to the south Asian country and provide hospitality training opportunities.

The parliamentarians laid their complaint with police this week to coincide with a planned visit by the Australian billionaire to Colombo.

On Wednesday Packer will be the keynote speaker at the Commonwealth Business Forum, which will be held in Sri Lanka and is timed to coincide with the biennial Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting. The theme of this year's meeting is economic development that provides opportunities to all members of society.

Mounting opposition to Packer’s planned casino from the opposition party and Buddhist leaders has seen the government delay approval for the planned resort, which they are hoping will draw in Indian and Chinese gamblers.

De Silva has criticised the government’s promise of low taxation for over a decade on Packer’s investment.

Packer inherited the family business, Consolidated Press Holdings, upon the death of his father, Kerry, in 2005, but has moved away from the family’s traditional media interests and has focussed on building a gambling empire. The holding company has a controlling interest in Crown Limited and a number of other companies. 

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