Australian billionaire James Packer plans to pump $400 million into a five-star gambling resort in Sri Lanka, cashing in on the country’s tourism potential.
The businessman has revealed he is in detailed discussions with the Sri Lankan government and potential joint venture partners to develop the resort, which will have 450 rooms as well as restaurants, retail stores, conference facilities and gambling spaces.
Mr Packer says the project on the banks of Beira Lake in Colombo would create 2,500 jobs.
“I have great confidence in the country’s future and believe as a destination that it is Sri Lanka’s time to shine in Asia,” he said in a statement to the Australian Stock Exchange.
“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.”
Sri Lanka is banking on high-end casinos to attract high-rollers and boost tourist arrivals to 2.5 million by 2016 from the current level of about a million tourists a year.
Mr Packer, who operates casinos in Melbourne, Perth and Macau, is also planning a complex in Manila.
The tourism industry in Sri Lanka, famed for its beaches and wildlife, has boomed in the past four years after the end of a decades-long civil war in which more than 100,000 people died.
Mr Packer says the Sri Lankan parliament and the Board of Investment were in the process of considering whether to grant investment approvals.
A Sri Lankan government spokesman last month said the cabinet had granted the project a partial 10-year tax holiday while approving the “mixed developments”, a euphemism for casino hotels. (AFP)