The Business Times reliably learns that Mr. Packer is considering his next step –whether to go ahead as a project without a casino or pull out- while there was no clear indication from other two project owners about the ‘casino’ status altogether.
“As stated by Economic Development Minister Basil Rajapaksa in Parliament on April 24, the government will not allow casinos to operate in the country,” Faizer Mustapha, Deputy Minister of Investment Promotion told a hurriedly, convened media conference in Colombo on Friday.
The three projects are Packer’s mixed development project in collaboration with his local partner casino owner Ravi Wijeratne; the Queensbury project by local businessmen Dhammika Perera and John Keells Holdings. He told journalists the three investors have expressed concern over widespread protests of the opposition against the implementation of the Strategic development projects. The order passed under the Strategic Development Projects Act has no reference whatsoever on casinos, he revealed. Mr. Mustapha pointed out that such protests will send negative signals to foreign investors. Investment Promotion Minister Lakshman Yapa Abeywardana told the Business Times that James Packer has so far not informed the government of his decision following the ban on casinos in these projects.
Construction starts at JKH integrated resort
By Sunimalee Dias
The John Keells Holdings (JKH) integrated resort project kick-started construction on Glennie Street but it remained unclear as to whether they would go ahead with previous plans for a casino following the newly approved bill in Parliament.
“Construction started a few weeks back” on the 10.5 acre extent of land, JKH Deputy Chairman Ajith Gunawardena speaking with the Business Times said on Friday. Of the three projects earmarked to provide gaming entertainment, the JKH property was the only one that announced commencement of its construction. The two other projects are James Packer’s and businessman Dhammika Perera’s, both on D.R. Wijewardena Mawatha.
He noted that they were going ahead with the plans as already announced to the Colombo Stock Exchange (CSE) but declined to respond to specific questions on whether a casino was part of the existing project following Parliamentary approval.
JKH’s US$650 million integrated project would consist of 800 rooms and large spaces for conferences with a seating capacity of 2500, Mr. Gunawardena explained. The conference capacity was provided in a bid to attract the conference and incentive market from India, he pointed out. In this respect, JKH would be providing the necessary space for such large conferences as Mr. Gunawardena pointed out that this capacity was currently unavailable in Colombo.
In a Business Times report in October 2013, the JKH deputy chairman was quoted as saying they were in discussions with two international operators to establish a casino. “We are discussing with two international operators at the moment,” Ajit Gunewardene, JKH Deputy Chairman had told the Business Times.