Colombo: In an effort to boost tourism, Sri Lanka plans to offer tax concessions to firms for operating casinos in Colombo despite protests from the opposition and from within the ruling coalition.
Lakshman Yapa Abeywardene, the Investment Promotion Minister said that the government will issue new gazette clarifying tax breaks and is also looking to come up with rules to address concerns raised.
Two gazettes giving tax breaks to large casino resorts to be built by the local firm John Keells Holdings and Australia`s Crown group would be presented to parliament for final approval this week.
Due to raging protests, a special meeting was held yesterday presided by President Mahinda Rajapaksa where it was decided to hold back giving approval to the gazettes in respect of establishing the two casino centres.
Abeywardene said a 5 per cent tax will be charged on the operations.
However the opposition claimed that other casino centres such as Macau charged 40 per cent on gaming revenues while Singapore charged taxes around 20 per cent.
The government sources said that members of the ruling coalition opposed the two casino centres.
The heritage party, the JHU and Sri Lanka Muslim Congress had vowed to oppose the move.
Abeywardene said that ruling coalition met yesterday and their views were sought on the proposed resorts.
He said the government would address concerns including restricting the entry of locals.
Australia`s Crown Resorts are to invest USD 400 million in the project.
The main opposition UNP vowed yesterday to shut down casino operations when they come to power.