'Sri Lankan Drama Will Not Affect Crown Casino's Asian Expansion Drive'

Analysts say Sri Lanka's refusal to allow James Packer to build a casino in the country won't be a major setback for his Asian expansion plans for Crown Casino, Radio Australia reported on Tuesday.

However, it is still not clear whether Sri Lanka has actually refused Casino mogul Packer's request. Whatever it is, Radio Australia was of the view that the Sri Lanka's Government has caved into the pressure from community and Buddhist groups who opposed to any additional casino licences in the country.

"[In] Macau, he's building another property over there, so that will be the principal focus," he said.Brian Han, a senior research analyst with Fat Prophets, says Mr Packer hopes to expand his lucrative high roller business around Asia.

"There's also talk of him entering Tokyo - that will be a major project if that gets the go-ahead because that will be a $5 billion property.

"On top of that ... he's looking at Sydney, which he will get into in a few years time - and then there is of course the US market."

James Packer has been extending his business empire away from its media base and into casinos.

Brian Han says the Asian expansion is a long-term strategy.

"What he's trying to do is spread his irons right across the world, so that he has a real attractive offering to premium high rollers to visit all these cities," he said.

"At the same time [he wants to] have a concentrated effort in the Asian region, whereby not only premium, but also growing demand is just insatiable, and there's just not enough supply to meet the demand."

Han says losing out on the Sri Lanka casino was not a fruitless venture for Mr Packer.

"Even if it all goes to nothing at least he has learnt something from the market as to how the regulatory process works.

"At a minimum he knows who are his competitors."

Balancing act

The denial of the casino licences affects two other luxury resort proposals headed by local developers.

All three have been granted attractive tax concessions.

Basil Fernando, a Sri Lankan lawyer and director with the Hong Kong based NGO, the Asian Human Rights Commission, says that despite the government's majority, it wasn't prepared to suffer further months of protests.

"These names have become quite black names," he said.

"The casino related names are usually related you know with not any good reputation."

Gambling isn't illegal in Sri Lanka and small scale operations exist, but critics claim generally they have brought increased crime, money laundering, corruption and prostitution.

There's no suggestion Packer's or the other casino proposals do so.

Fernando says his organisation has put Sri Lanka at the top of its list of Asian countries for the breakdown of the rule of law, and he says the public won't tolerate things getting worse.

"There is a fear of a greater increase of crimes, for example, crimes related to black money and also crimes related to illegal security forces and others, which has remained a problem in Sri Lanka," he said.

"The main concern comes out of a very sharp feeling that in the recent decades there has been a considerable breakdown of the rule of law in the country and that instead of trying to solve that problem, the introduction of these hotel complexes will be only a pretext to bring more crime into the country."

© 2019 Asian Mirror (pvt) Ltd