COLOMBO Nov 11 Sri Lanka's main opposition
party on Monday demanded that police arrest Australian gambling
tycoon James Packer, who is due attend a Commonwealth forum this
week, saying his plan to build a $400 million casino in Colombo
has no proper license.
Mounting opposition by Buddhist religious leaders and some
political parties has already led the Sri Lankan government to
delay approval for Packer's Crown Ltd planned casino
resort - the flagship project in a government plan to draw in
Indian and Chinese gamblers.
Harsha de Silva, a lawmaker for the main opposition United
National Party, said the casino should be located offshore
rather than in the heart of Colombo, where it would "pollute"
customs. He also criticized the government's promise of
extremely low taxation for a decade on Packer's investment.
The police last week arrested 43 people in an illegal
gambling centre in Colombo for unlawful gaming.
"If the police can apply the law on small time casinos, then
the police must also apply the same law on the big time casino,"
de Silva told reporters after filing a complaint with the
He said operating a casino without a license is a crime
according to the "rule of the land".
"We have reliable information that Mr Packer and his team
have arrived here to plot, to commit this crime," he said,
adding he had urged police to investigate and take action to
ensure that no crime is committed.
He acknowledged it was unlikely police would move against
Packer, who is scheduled to speak at a Commonwealth Business
forum this week, coinciding with the Commonwealth Heads of
Government Meeting in Colombo.
One of Australia's richest men, Packer 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
Despite the pressure, the government of President Mahinda
Rajapaksa is expected to seek approval for the project in
parliament later this month, possibly after amending some of the
tax concession clauses in response to criticism from his
Rajapaksa has a more than two-thirds parliament majority,
but his government is wary of angering Buddhist leaders.
Government officials have told Reuters that two Sri Lankan
entrepreneurs have five casino license among them. One of the
businessmen is Packer's partner. However, the president has
denied that his government has granted any licenses since he
came to power in 2005.
(Editing by Robert Birsel)