Well-known economist and UNP parliamentarian Harsha De Silva said today casinos, which were being set up in Colombo, were not meant to develop country’s economy because of the huge tax concessions given to the owning companies.
“The Finance Ministry has instructed the Board of Investment to ensure that tax and betting levy concessions are granted to casino companies, if they invest more than Rs.350 million. In most countries casinos are set up to increase government revenue. But how are we going to collect any revenue by giving tax concessions to casino companies,” Dr. Silva said.
He told a news conference that the government had sold a 2.5 acre land just opposite Lake House for as little as Rs.3.6 million a perch to a casino company whereas a perch was sold to Krrish and Sunvilla for Rs.10 million.
“The land was sold to the casino company without calling for tenders or without a valuation report from the government assessor. We won’t allow the government to sell this land at a price which is less than what was estimated by the government assessor,” Dr. Silva said.
Dr. Silva said if the government was going to introduce casinos to Sri Lanka, three conditions must be met -- the appointment of a casino regulator,the imposition of a minimum 40% tax on gambling and hold discussions with all stakeholders.
“If the government is going to introduce casinos to Sri Lanka, it must do three things. First a casino regulator must be established just like all other countries having casinos and they have to abide by very strict rules and regulations of the country. Secondly a minimum 40% tax on gambling must be imposed and thirdly the government must have discussions with all stakeholders including civil society groups and religious leaders on the consequence of setting up casinos,” he said.
Dr. Silva rubbished the Government claim that the setting up of casinos was an integrated development project though it was clearly not so.(Ajith Siriwardana- DM Online)Pix by Kithsiri De Mel