Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Casinos – What is all the fuss about?

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   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.               


Anonymous said...

Too right. Casinos are OK for deserts like Vegas, and derelict cities like Atlantic City or ports like Macau.

Singapore has strict conditions and as they have a very disciplined workforce and Govt. there is no hanky panky allowed.

Compare that with lawless Sri Lanka, the law of the jungle will reign supreme. Hope the sensible Sri Lankans realize this whole ventrue is a get rich quick scheme for a few. They don't care a damn about the Country.

Anonymous said...

This is a Gommorah already, and we must try to make it into a livable place not add Soddom to it too!!!

This Govt. is ruining this Country and the people just let them do so. They (the people) must either be imbecilic or not educated enough to be taken in by all the lies.

Liberal One said...

//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.

Question is who would do it? Would you? and why didn't it happen already? We talk about the "beautiful Sri Lanka" but we only get 1 million tourists when malaysia gets 20 million.

Government has big plans to boost income and tourists using Casinos, just let them. If you are so concerned about the social negatives just visit Crown Melbourne. Is Melbourne such a dirty place?

Anonymous said...

it is particularly interesting that the casino kingpins from abroad must link up with a Sri Lankan partner in order to realize their Sri Lankan dreams. The SL partner, whoever that person is, would be set to skyrocket to becoming the richest person in Sri Lanka and hence he's got to have some serious connections to the top. It's a shame that if this venture goes forward that it will benefit that local partner, given the sweetest cherry imaginable for an individual of his standing, rather than the sri lankan people in the form of a state partner, at least -- mentioning nothing about the morality of the entire venture.

my view is that Sri Lankan tourism should reflect Sri Lankan values, whatever those may be, rather than just trying to attract any tourists from anywhere to do anything in Sri Lanka. IF the casino goes up, why not just use our own girls as the prostitutes rather than import them from Ukraine? Why not legalize drugs and sell them in the casinos for the "foreigners"? etc etc etc If the goal is to make a few extra bucks from the tourists, there's plenty of ways to do so if the country wishes to sell its soul, and those of the ancestors of more than 2000 years.

this casino issue is another great one that the opposition can harp on, if they can just get their act together. this issue can actually divide the government, and put its members in an awkward position if they are each forced to take a stand on the issue. if you keep abreast of the details of this case, and those of others such as the electricity fare hikes, duminda silva murder case, etc. you may have some semblance of an opposition renaissance...

Anonymous said...

Let's face it, boss. As a country, we have no imagination, no vision, and we just can't be bothered to plan properly or make our attractions desirable to visit. So casinos are an easy way out. Nobody cares that there'll be problems later - we don't want to think about it now.

Anonymous said...

you are right about the moral situation in sri lanka. it's at its lowest point in living memory and sinking further. sri lankan people themselves are not trustworthy, amoral, and chaotic and this makes the country an unattractive for tourists as well as locals. fixing this situation is paramount to fixing the tourist issue. the casino in colombo will only exacerbate the morality problem, as you have already pointed out, and could be the point of no return for the country. what will exist then will be a place with shiny buildings that is inhabited with horrible people. let's get the people situation right, and not worry about fancy buildings and tourist dollars at all costs

Anonymous said...

Why does this Govt. give an existing illegal casino the right to transfer it to Packer's Crown for 45% of the Company. That effective gives this local Casino owner an instant gain of at least Rs 10Billion. They should close all existing Casinos and auction licenses to the highest bidder. However in Sri Lanka even an auction is rigged. SO how can we have a properly run Casino when we are a lawless state. I thought it funny that one commentator suggested there Melbourne Crown was great and not a prob in Australia. Is he writing from overseas as in Sri Lanka there is no law enforcement if you are from Govt. it is only for others! Have you been out of touch as to the present state of the Country?

(there is no law currently in the statute books permitting the Casinos currently in place, they just take an annual fee to permit them to break the law, so the existing casinos are illegal)

Anonymous said...

Actually anon this Casino mogul supplies the Pres with his crumpets at his home when desire strikes him! After all that is how the LTTE were tracking him for a hit, when his guard was down(literally and figuratively)

So it is called payment for favors rendered, but the cost is borne by the Sri Lankan people as otherwise the RS 10B would go into the State coffers

Ratmale,Minneriya,Sri Lanka said...

My main rationale for not wanting Casinos was not an aversion to them on religious or on principle. I will gladly go to a casino and spend a few bucks and have some fun and entertainment and come home once in a while.

It is that I do not believe that Sri Lanka at present is governed fairly so that proper laws can be enforced so that the social ills referred to above do not occur. Australia and Singapore have Justice, rule of Law, good governance we have NONE of it.

SO politicians who are in power do not understand that they are not even fit to govern, let alone entrap the citizenry in further webs of deceit.

Anonymous said...

Ratmale, well if you do not object on principle or morality, then why do you object to them coming based on 'poor governance' which itself can be considered a matter of ethics. your argument is hypocritical and weak. This is the same problem that we see in the UNP. they don't know how to take a sensible stand on anything, even as simple as this casino matter. and without a reasonable opposition the government can do whatever it wants without fear of driving themselves out of office. ah, sri lanka the isle of serendipity

Liberal One said...

Relatively speaking yes, we are a lawless country compared to most of developed nations.

But going by that logic we can't have anything until the perfect day arrives. No night clubs, no bars, no booze, no private universities, nothing. Even the parliamentary representative system would have to be get rid of because there is not law. Let's face it, it is the job of the government/tourism agencies to decide the blueprints for tourism, they have chosen one, been planning this for more than 2 years . The country is in need of revenue, lets not sabotage it for political grudges.

Ratmale,Minneriya,Sri Lanka said...

I agree the Country is in need of Revenue, but is this a sure way of getting it? NO. When only 10% of those who should be paying income tax even have a tax file in Sri Lanka, means that it is very easy with political patronage to get by disclosing minuscule profits. After all if the Casino licenses were auctioned off, then the Govt. could raise US$500M easily instead of giving the existing Casino owners a freebie. So that is the starting point of a flawed process.

There is nothing political about it, it is self evident they have gone about it the WRONG way!!

Anonymous said...

We must first look at how the existing Casinos have helped the SL economy if at all. Then we can make a judgment of whether turning into mega resort will be overall net positive.

The fact is that the Ukrainian prostitutes who came have now multiplied to at least 500 at any time and are seen in Passikudah and Arugam Bay as well, at $200 a pop from a mainly local fawning clientele. So this is not attracting tourism dollars, just subtracting it instead.

So I guess this is considered development by some! Not me

Anonymous said...

I am assuming all of your commenters are males, and also that most of the public debate is being fueled by male perspectives.

i wonder what females think of the casino issue. after all, males tend to be much more permissive of social ills than females who are concerned more about raising families rather than having fun (except the Colombo variety).

males will gladly cavort with prostitutes regardless of their marital status, and enjoy the games of 'get rich quick' at the potential cost of the family savings. and in one of the highest per capita rate countries of alcohol consumption they probably wouldn't mind a free-flow of alcohol provided by the casinos either. probably by a busty light skinned woman in some kind of leotard more suitable for performing gymnastics.

females on the other hand should have much more to lose from this casino issue, like their dignity and financial and physical security.

what do they think about this issue?? shouldn't they be mobilized as a political bloc against this project also?

Anonymous said...

over to you Rosy...