* Buddhist leaders, politicians, protest casino deal
* Amendment to tax concessions likely to delay project
* Packer urged to invest more in country, but not casinos
By Shihar Aneez
COLOMBO, Oct 22 Opposition by Buddhist religious
leaders and some political parties in Sri Lanka led the
government to announce on Tuesday it will alter tax concessions
granted to Australian gambling tycoon James Packer's Crown Ltd
for a $400 million hotel resort that will include a
The changes could take at least one month and likely will
delay Packer's mixed-development investment project for the
second time this year.
Lakshman Yapa Abeywardena, Investment Promotion minister,
said the decision to alter the deal's terms came after various
opposition politicians said Packer was getting concessions not
given to local entrepreneurs and Buddhist leaders said the
casino could be detrimental to Sri Lanka's culture.
"We'll amend the bill" and have new terms by Nov. 21,
Abeywardena told reporters. "We will describe how we are going
to grant tax concessions, like if it is from the gross revenue
or net revenue. We will base the tax on the gross revenue and
not on the net profit. The tax concession is on investment and
not on the hotel operation. We will clarify all these in the new
The ministry over the weekend released photos Packer meeting
officials in Sri Lanka and Abeywardena said he had asked Packer
to invest more in the country.
"He said he was willing to bring more investments. He told
us he will consider some more investments along with this
investment, but we have clearly told him we would not allow
investments for more casinos," the minister added.
Crown last week confirmed that it was in detailed
discussions with the Sri Lankan government and potential joint
venture partners regarding the development of a 5-star
integrated resort and the total project cost would be
approximately $400 million.
The deal has already been delayed once after the government
asked Lake Leisure Holdings, the joint venture between Crown Ltd
and its local partner, Rank Entertainment Holdings Pvt Ltd, to
change its construction plans.
Packer's deal has been already approved by the island
nation's cabinet and is expected to easily win approval from the
parliament because President Mahinda Rajapaksa's ruling
coalition has more than a two-thirds majority.
Packer, one of Australia's richest men, has been in talks
since February with the government over hotel and entertainment
investment options as he expands his global gambling business
that includes casinos in Australia, Macau, Britain and the