Packer’s Sri Lanka project faces major delays

    Crown Resort’s plan for a $400 million integrated resort in Sri Lanka is facing months of new delays because of unspecified legal issues, Reuters reports, citing a government minister.”We have something to be sorted out from our legal side,” Investment Promotion Minister Lakshman Yapa Abeywardena told Reuters in a telephone interview. He declined to say exactly what the legal matter is.”There are some legal issues from our side once they paid the necessary fees for the land,” Yapa said. “We have informed them to start the construction they have also some issues. It will take another two three months (to start).”

    The future of the project has been uncertain since April, when the government said it would approve the resort, but without the addition of a casino. The waters were further muddied two weeks later when officials said they wouldn’t oppose a casino if it operated in partnership with a local, who already holds an existing license.Packer’s Sri Lankan partner, Ravi Wijeratne owns two casino licences.The news agency cited analysts as saying the delays on the resort could extend until the next presidential polls scheduled for January next year.

    Plans to incorporate a casino into new resorts on the island have run into significant local opposition, especially from conservative Buddhist sectors of society.Packer has touted Sri Lanka’s potential as being similar to that of Macau, given the island’s proximity to a huge neighbouring country with fast-growing wealth, where gambling is currently mostly illegal.Citing a McKinsey report, Packer last year said India’s middle-class could swell to 580 million by 2025, while about 50 million will travel overseas by 2020, compared to just 4 million in 2000. That spells huge potential for neighbouring Sri Lanka, he said.