Packer takes sales pitch to Sri Lanka
Just days after receiving approval to build a $1.5 billion luxury hotel and casino at his Sydney Harbour development, Barangaroo, James Packer is making his most public pitch yet to build a $400 million casino resort in Sri Lanka.
In a speech to delegates at the Commonwealth Business Forum in Colombo on Wednesday - a conference just before the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting - Mr Packer said a luxury casino resort was a necessity if Sri Lanka was to achieve its potential.
He said Sri Lanka's "ambitious" tourism targets were achievable only with the right tourism infrastructure and attractions, and cited the success of Singapore.
Mr Packer has added $3 billion to his personal wealth since July last year as shares of his casino operator, Crown Resorts, doubled in value.
The main driver of this growth was investors recognising the success of his bet on Macau, which has become a gambling mecca for mainland China.
Mr Packer hinted at Sri Lanka's proximity to India, with a growing proportion of India's population becoming wealthy.
"The demographic changes we are seeing in India and China are extraordinary," Mr Packer said.
He cited a McKinsey study that said incomes were expected to almost triple and the size of India's middle-class population could swell to 580 million by 2025.
As with China, the rising wealth of India's middle class meant more of their spending would go on leisure activities.
About 50 million people will travel overseas by 2020, compared with just 4 million in 2000, according to Mr Packer.
This middle class will need to go overseas to indulge in any gambling.
India's gambling market is limited to two states, Goa and Sikkim, and laws prevent direct foreign investment.
As with China's gambling enclave, Macau, it is India's resistance to gambling on the subcontinent that is expected to allow Sri Lanka - a four-hour flight from India's major cities - to thrive as a gambling hub.