Sri Lanka next cab off the rank for Packer's Crown

James Packer's casino operation, Crown Ltd, publicly confirmed on Friday that it is in detailed discussions with the Sri Lankan government, and potential joint venture partners, over the development of a casino resort in the island nation.

James Packer's casino operation, Crown Ltd, publicly confirmed on Friday that it is in detailed discussions with the Sri Lankan government, and potential joint venture partners, over the development of a casino resort in the island nation.

If it goes ahead the $400 million venture in Colombo, branded Crown Sri Lanka, will include 450 rooms and suites and mirror Crown's developments in Australia with their combination of fine dining and entertainment.

"A Crown integrated resort would help redefine luxury tourism in Sri Lanka and play a significant role in helping to drive increased international in-bound tourism, especially from India and China," said Packer, Crown's executive chairman.

Crown's share price hit record highs this week as analysts upgraded the stock's outlook on the basis of its lucrative exposure to China's gambling enclave, Macau.

Crown said the Sri Lankan parliament and the Board of Investment were considering whether it was appropriate to grant investment approvals for the project.

Legislation is expected before the parliament later this month to grant tax concessions that are a condition of Crown's investment.

The company said the project was also subject to final agreement between potential Crown joint venture parties and a number of other approval processes.

Sri Lanka, which is still recovering from a devastating civil war, has set up legalised gambling zones and is introducing tax concessions to attract foreign investors.

Crown is not the only casino group showing interest.

Sheldon Adelson's Las Vegas Sands has reportedly explored Sri Lanka after being rebuffed by India.

MGM Resorts and Caesars Entertainment have also been talking to Indian hospitality and gaming group Delta Corp, which owns a casino in Colombo and several more in India.

India's gambling market is limited to two states, Goa and Sikkim, and direct foreign investment is not allowed.

As with China's gambling enclave, Macau, it is India's resistance to gambling on the subcontinent that is expected to allow Sri Lanka - just a four-hour flight from India's major cities - to thrive as a gambling hub.

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