Operators from the past: Mubarak Thaha operated the ‘Colombo Recreation Club’ along with the showman Donovan Andree and later the ‘Atlanta’ Club with his nephew, which was mainly a gaming club where card games were in dominance. Along with his nephew he operated a hugely successful club along with a sport book which consisted mainly of accepting wagers on Horse racing from England. Thaha was charged under the infamous Criminal Justice Commission (CJC) under draconian laws imposed by Sirimavo and Felix Dias Bandaranaike which saw a premature end to a colourful career for Thaha despite his wooing of politicians of the time. Aloysious Mudalali – a trusted Premadasa acolyte – opened the first of the ‘proper’ casinos as we now know it complete with American managers from premises opposite the Central Bank in Janadipathi Mawatha.
Other players also included Nalin Fonseka and Joe Sim as well as the Wijeratne brothers and the Perera family both of who dominate the industry in Colombo now. Joe Sim was forced to leave the island after President Premadasa ordered the closure of all casino operations. A recent attempt to see the return of Joe Sim never materialised.