There is this notion that once the industry is legalised, the industry and its effects could be controlled and regulated. In fact we brought in regulations in 2011 which clearly said that casinos could not be set up in different areas but have to be centralised into one single zone or area. What we had in mind was that this zone would be created in a far-off area like Kalpitiya or such place but that didn’t happen. The issue actually lies in the fact that there is no governance in this country. There have been examples and comparisons drawn with Singapore and its casinos.
The fundamental difference between Singapore and Sri Lanka is that Singapore has governance, there is no one who is above the law. Take the Hambantota incident, has the law been implemented at all with regard to the suspects? That is the biggest problem that the Sri Lankan society has to face. Because the law doesn’t apply equally to everyone no one can expect the industry to be controlled.
Then there is also a political dimension to this. Once these businessmen come into the country, they would start controlling policy making and decision making. That was what Packer did in Australia. We have witnessed this phenomenon in the past when Malaysia’s Joe Sim operated casinos in the early 90’s. Within three years of starting operations the President of this country, no less, said that the ‘ casino’ businessmen were attempting to bring down his government. These are facts.
Thereafter they were banned. Then in 2001 under the Chandrika Bandaranaike government casinos were reintroduced with a tax, and even she cried foul during her tenure alleging that it was casino businessmen who are trying to topple the government. Parliamentarians would be bought; they would be making deals and political decisions at the Crown Casino or at the John Keells Casino. The method in which this Act was passed itself speaks volumes of the political clout these businessmen possess. The entire country feels the might of their power. The Act was passed despite the entire country crying against it, and those who passed it did so, despite this upheaval. Can you believe what political clout these casino businessmen possess even now? The Maha Sangha and the public were betrayed by the method they brought this Act and passed it.
Therefore, if you take this on any facet, be it economical, political or social, the harm that they could cause far outweighs the benefits that could accrue.