|Sri Lanka coalition parties scuttle casino tax breaks plan
Sri Lanka has suspended final approval for two casinos involving a total investment of US$1 billion after protests from within the ruling coalition's ranks, a minister said.
A bill giving the two separate casino hotels the go-ahead and granting them a 10-year tax holiday was due to be presented to parliament Thursday.
But Investment Promotion Minister Lakshman Yapa Abeywardena said he has withdrawn the bill, which was meant to grant final approval to the projects, AFP reports.
“The government felt that we should withdraw this bill because of the concerns raised by some of our own coalition partners,'' Abeywardena said.
“There is a lot of misunderstanding and we want to address all that before we go to parliament.''
Local blue chip conglomerate John Keells Holdings is expected to invest US$650 million in a waterfront casino in the capital, in conjunction with a so-far unannounced foreign partner. Australian gambling mogul James Packer's company has committed US$350 million for a similar development.
A party made up of Buddhist monks, a member of the ruling coalition, has opposed the casinos.
Abeywardena denied the bill has been axed, saying it was being reworked so that the 10-year tax holiday was confined to the hotel operations and not the casinos.
He said he expected the bill would be introduced in about a month, with the government hoping to take 5 percent of all casino revenue irrespective of profits.
The bill is expected to be passed when it is eventually introduced because President Mahinda Rajapakse's party has a majority in parliament.
“The tax concessions will be there, but there will be more clarity on what is taxed and what is not. We will also remove any ambiguities in the bill,'' the minister said.