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SL to set up regulatory authority as one of the  world’s highest taxing countries for casinos

June 22, Colombo (LNW): In the wake of high taxation on betting and gaming Sri Lankan authorities have officially taken a decision for the establishment of a gaming regulatory authority in the wake of ever increasing tax evasion by a handful of local casino owners as finance ministry sources disclosed.

The new authority would oversee casino tax collection, counter criminal activity and negative societal impacts from gaming, state minister of finance Ranjith Siyambalapitiya said.

Cabinet of Ministers gave a green light to the gambling regulatory authority, following a proposal submitted by the president recently.

The government has been trying to set up a regulatory body, aimed at ensuring casino owners pay their fair share of taxes.

State Minister of Finance Ranjith Siyambalapitiya recently said Sri Lanka has become one of the highest taxing countries in the world for casinos. 

Speaking in Parliament on Wednesday during the debate on tax amendments related to casinos, he highlighted the Government’s efforts to improve tax collection from casinos. “Under the current regime, the Government has succeeded in adding 60% of a casino’s turnover to State revenue,” he said. 

The State Minister also noted that previously, only income tax was collected from casinos, but the new measures include a licence fee of Rs. 500 million, an annual renewal fee of Rs. 500 million and a 15% turnover tax.

However, last week the Committee on Public Finance (CoPF) revealed that despite legal prohibitions, online casinos continue to operate openly in Sri Lanka, depriving the Government’s revenue without facing any repercussions.

 CoPF directed the officials to expedite the implementation of the necessary laws to establish a regulatory authority, which is crucial for attracting foreign investors and securing the Government’s rightful revenue from the casino business.

It has also been agreed to issue new casino licenses, revealing that a 2010 law regulating casinos required such licenses, but that none had been issued.

According to recent estimates of the finance ministry, a sum of US $7.4 million in casino taxes were in arreas due to lack of regulatory oversight.

Ten new operators have applied for licenses to establish casinos in the country casinos but the government is yet to grant its approval, State Minister Ranjith Siyambalapitiya disclosed.

Minister Siyambalapitiya said the applications were in various stages of evaluation and no licenses have been issued so far.

Six casinos are currently operating in Colombo including Bally’s,Bellagio Entertainment, Casino Marina, Stardust, Continental Club,  and The Ritz Club.

Singapore’s Kreate Design Pte Ltd is planning to invest $1 billion within the next three years to convert Colombo Lotus Tower, in Sri Lanka’s capital, into an ‘entertainment hub’, including a casino.

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