James Packer acquires Sri Lankan property for new Crown casino

crown-packer-sri-lanka-casinoJames Packer has reportedly acquired property in Sri Lanka on which the Crown Ltd. boss plans to erect his latest resort casino. Packer has visited Sri Lanka twice over the past couple months in what was viewed as scouting trips to determine the best possible location for a new gambling joint. In addition to its Australian casino properties, Crown operates casinos in Macau via its Melco Crown Entertainment joint venture and is constructing another Melco Crown facility in the Philippines.

On the weekend, the Colombo Page reported that Packer had acquired land in Sri Lanka’s capital Colombo. The property is said to be located near the state-owned Lake House newspaper operations on Beira Lake in the center of the city. Packer is believed to be planning to erect a 36-story skyscraper as part of a $350m project to be dubbed Crown Colombo, due to open in 2016.

While Sri Lanka has several small-time casinos run by locals, the government has made no secret of its desire to attract international resort-casino developers in the hope of boosting its annual tourist arrival rate to 2.6m per year by 2016. Sri Lanka recently passed amendments to its Casino Business (Regulation) Act to provide tax incentives for casino projects and Las Vegas Sands has reportedly expressed interest in exploring its Sri Lankan options.

India’s Delta Corp., which operates three casinos in the Indian state of Goa and a small casino in Colombo, has been sitting on a piece of land on the outskirts of the Sri Lankan capital since 2011 on which it hopes to erect a 150k-square-foot gaming establishment with an adjoining 500-room hotel. Delta has previously held talks with companies such as MGM Resorts International and Caesars Entertainment about a co-venture, but Indian law prevents foreign firms from making direct investment in the country’s gaming market, which is itself limited to the states of Goa and Sikkim. Given Sri Lanka’s location just off India’s southern coast, Sri Lanka could offer a back door access to the over one billion residents of the largely gambling-deprived country.