Crown Sri Lanka project appears doomed after political upset

crown-resorts-sri-lanka-casinoAustralian casino operator Crown Resorts’ plan to build a casino in Sri Lanka appears doomed after voters ousted the country’s president and installed an anti-casino politician. President Mahinda Rjapaksa, who had ruled Sri Lanka for a decade, was unseated on Friday by his former ally Maithripala Sirisena, whose New Democratic Front secured 51.3% of the popular vote.

One of Sirisena’s key campaign promises was to roll back plans for a Crown casino. Crown planned to build a $400m resort casino in the country’s capital Colombo, but the project was mired in controversy from the start. Buddhist groups objected to idea of any more casinos beyond the small-scale joints currently operating in and around Colombo. Overly generous tax concessions helped inflame animosity toward the project.

Crown has lots of other expansion plans to keep it busy, both on its own and via its stake in the Melco Crown Entertainment joint venture. Crown is presently adding a new hotel to its Perth casino and plans to do likewise for its Melbourne property. Crown is also finalizing plans for its new $1.5b VIP casino in Sydney and recently entered into a JV with Oaktree Capital on a Las Vegas casino project. Crown has also just announced a new online betting JV with Matthew Tripp’s BetEasy. Melco Crown will officially launch its City of Dreams Manila in time for the lunar new year celebrations and Studio City will open in Macau later this year.

Crown’s Sri Lanka project had teamed with local casino operator Ravi Wijeratne, who planned to shift one of his existing casino licenses to the Crown facility. Two similar Colombo resort casino proposals by local property developer John Keells Holdings and politician/businessman Dhammika Perera are also expected to be scrapped once the country’s new administration officially takes the reins of power.

Meanwhile, Perera’s small-scale Ballys Colombo casino has inked a deal with gaming device supplier Euro Games Technology (EGT). The casino, which had primarily relied on table games like roulette, has been slowly diversifying into electronic gaming. An EGT spokesperson said the casino had accepted delivery of eight Egypt Quest progressive jackpot slot machines and future orders are expected given the positive reaction the new machines have received.