Let us try and make some sense in this. Let me first say that I am in principle against there being any casinos in Sri Lanka, based on the Western Concept of Casinos like they have in Vegas, Atlantic City, Macau and the new one in Singapore where one has been permitted to operate just for tourists! In that sense I would like to see the existing Casinos removed as well, even if it is claimed that they are ONLY for foreigners.
This is not out of any personal grudge I have against it, but I believe the whole premise of wanting Casinos is to develop our tourism, especially Indian Tourism and Casinos are seen as a hugely profitable opportunity to fill the hotels with high spending Indians! Sri Lanka has very unique characteristics as a country, which should be further enhanced, and protected and developed, and this model of a remarkably beautiful country can draw in any number of tourists, especially Indians if properly marketed, without the need for Casinos.
I DO NOT believe we need Casinos to provide employment either, more than the perceived 2500 jobs can be provided at far less cost of the Crown Casino if that was an objective. I have been to Casinos overseas, they attract all sorts of people, for gambling, but the feeder businesses of money laundering, prostitution, gangs, underworld and drugs are a hugely attractive by product of it, no matter what one tries to say about it. It is just inevitable, and Sri Lankans will gather where the money is no matter what restrictions they place, even if they only permit foreigners to enter the hotels!
People say that we already have drugs, prostitution and betting in a big way in addition to the large number of addicted smokers and alcoholics, so what if we have some casinos, when at every street corner we see people doing the equivalent by playing cards, or draughts and other gambling related activities like cock fighting. This is altogether at a scale that is unimaginable that will change the face of Sri Lanka to a altogether different level, which I do not believe we need to go, just for the sake of a few bucks and some tax revenue. That is if a proper taxing system can be found in a messy industry, where tax avoidance is rife, and in Sri Lanka enforcement will be pastime of political largesse being received/doled out for stealing from the state.
An article in today’s FT http://www.ft.lk/2013/10/23/setting-up-a-legalised-casino-good-or-bad/ argues that it is good for the Country, especially if it is a country in the doldrums that needs some new business to revive from a depressed state. Sri Lanka certainly does not fall into that category and does not have to resort to such extreme measures to grow. We have gone so far in the bad direction, that we as a country must go on a moral upliftment program from Grade 1 kids, if we are ever to get a sense of proportion about ourselves. A Casino Culture, will make it difficult to preach to a new accountability and responsibility culture, and fully answerable to our lives, the need of the hour.
In my experience, we have reached a moral low point already, by International Standards, whilst trying to preach to the outside world about how virtuous we are. Bringing casinos will not help in reversing this trend, but further give blessing to a steeper decline in morality to which we may as well slit our wrists.
The semantic game where the Govt. says that they will not issue any Casino licenses to anyone, just permit the current owners to close their operations, and bring them all into one area on DR Wijewardene Mawatha is a joke. Once you have 5 roaring Casinos, having another 25 even on the same street if the former draw the high rollers is only a matter of time and the money will not spread to the hinterlands and to the people who need it by way of taxes, but just shared amongst a few mega rich who will see their wealth increase by leaps and bounds. The Country will be known only for this. What a Gomorrah that will be! This is promoted by a few in power to enhance their power and wealth only!
Restricting it to foreigners, one locality, reducing tax concessions is not the answer, as that is just a smoke and mirrors game where our local wealthy already have foreign passports, and those who don’t will just walk in as they will be the VVIPs of Govt. Their black money will be laundered and their drug businesses will thrive. The prostitutes will be exclusively foreign high cost ones, who come to SL from Ukraine in plane loads to make money and take back home.
It is simply unnecessary as our efforts will also be concentrated in this business and not trying to correct our ills, protect our environment, find renewable energy resources, develop grassroots infrastructure, educate our people into a thinking culture from a slavish culture, and showcase our beautiful country to high paying tourists who value our product, a smart-set if you will, pristinely preserved from a turning into a tacky Pattaya, and discouraging sex tourism, and drug culture.
If locals want Gambling, Sex, Drugs or tacky tourism they are no more than a 4 hour flight from Colombo, why just duplicate that here? Please don’t allow it.