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Sri Lankans Take to Streets to Oppose Crown Casino Project

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James Packer’s proposed project in Sri Lanka is drawing the ire of both the political opposition and many civil groups, including Buddhist monks.

Australian casino magnate and Crown Resorts CEO James Packer has proposed three related projects in Sri Lanka totaling $1.3 billion in investment. The country currently has several small-scale casinos, but Packer’s developments could turn it into a resort casino hub for Indians, as Indian gambling laws allow casinos only in Goa and Sikkim.

While the government is mulling granting approval to Mr. Packer, an assortment of opposition figures and civil groups have united in protest against the projects, including Buddhist monks and leaders of the United National Party (UNP). While the government of President Rahinma Rajapaksa made gambling news by doing an about face and stating that he will not allow casinos in Packer’s hotel developments, opponents are skeptical.

Casino detractors associate gambling with crime, prostitution

Anti-gambling groups and individuals argue that large-scale resort casinos will become cesspools of prostitution and crime and will erode religious and cultural values in the mostly Buddhist nation. UNP activists chanted “say not to casino-prostitution bill” at the site of the proposed casino project, which is being developed in conjunction with Packer’s domestic partner, Rank Entertainment Holdings Pvt Ltd.

In addition to the Crown proposal, Bally’s owner Dammika Parera is also planning a major expansion of his currently modest casino operations.

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