Crown admits Packer scoping Sri Lanka
CROWN has confirmed its executive chairman, James Packer, was in Sir Lanka this week reviewing the island nation's potential to become part of his global casino empire.
Mr Packer met Sri Lankan ministers to discuss investment options, according to reports from Sri Lanka.
"They have not finalised the area and the amount they are going to invest," Sri Lanka's Minister of Investment Promotion, Lakshman Yapa Abeywardena, said. "The government has asked them to come up with a proposal.
"The government proposed [for] them to invest in a large city hotel in Colombo and go to [the eastern city of] Trincomalee to look into possible investment opportunities."
The Treasury Secretary, P.B. Jayasundera, said Mr Packer had expressed an interest in "integrated tourism", which typically includes hotels, casinos and other entertainment. A Crown spokesman declined to comment about potential investments in Sri Lanka.
Sri Lanka has a number of casinos in Colombo, the capital, which are open to foreign passport holders.
Familiar names abound, such as Bally's Casino, MGM Casino, Bellagio Casino and Star Dust, but none is associated with the more famous Las Vegas counterparts.
If Mr Packer decides to invest in Sri Lanka, it is not clear whether this would be conducted through Crown directly or via its Asian joint venture, Melco Crown Entertainment, which has operations in Macau and a casino resort developments under way in the Philippines.
Crown has operations in Australia, Britain and the US.
Sri Lanka is now mired in controversy over the impeachment of the nation's chief justice. Prominent barrister Geoffrey Robertson wants Australia and other Commonwealth countries to boycott a leaders' meeting in Colombo in November in protest. Chief justice Shirani Bandaranayake was sacked by President Mahinda Rajapaksa two days after Parliament voted to impeach her in January.
She had previously stalled a bill that sought to grant greater political and financial power to the president's youngest brother, who is the Economic Development Minister.
In his report, released in London on Wednesday, Mr Robertson argues the Sri Lankan government's treatment of the judge "undermines the rule of law to such an extent that the country which suffers it will suffer the loss of that independent power which is essential to make democracy work".