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Saturday, 7 December 2013

Casino Love of Sri Lankans

Casino is an interesting topic, at least now in Sri Lanka.

The government's push over the Mass Centralized Casino Project has developed unified platforms for several sectors. Buddhists and Muslims are taking hands for protecting their fundamental principles. The segments of opposition that usually cut one another's limbs, even within their own quarters, have flocked together for a common cause.

Here, I am not trying to discuss the philosophical or political good-bad sides of Casino in Sri Lanka. This is to give an economic perspective as I see with my limited knowledge in the subject, in very simple language. 

Any rationally thinking citizen could smell, even if he cannot fully understand, why the casino tycoon James Packer is waving a 400 million USD to get the green light for the project. Perhaps he may already have thrown a few millions in air. It is not that difficult to understand why several politicians and few notorious monks are trying their level best to justify the project.

If you take the world topmost casino destinations such as Las Vegas, Macau, Monte Carlo etc.; you will find them all having one important aspect. The gambling is spread over a large spatial area and the capacity of game spots varies from one dollar bet dungeons to several million chip paradises. A whole spectrum of gamblers are attracted to the city whose sheltering varies from 10 dollar backpacker's dens to 5000 dollars per night 7 stars. 

The gambling city gets income from various sources: the roulette table itself, accommodation, food, prostitution, amenities, porn industry, music, etc. 

Is such income generation suitable for Sri Lanka....? You can debate it for the next few decades.

Now let's look at James Packer's proposal.

He proposes to build a huge hotel with all the facilities in the heart of the capital. All casinos in Sri Lanka will be located only there. The income out of the whole project will be given a couple of decades of tax holiday.

Do you expect any business tycoon to throw 400 million dollars for a gambling based hotel and promote the tourism of the country.....? 

Which casino owner wants to attract a visitor who stays one night at his gambling arena and spends the rest of the visit on sight seeing; Sigiriya, Kandy, Hikkaduwa, Arugam bay..... ...?

A rich tourist who goes to Pathaya beach for a holiday may bet few hundred dollars at a gambling spot in the city. Such tourist and a professional gambler that may come to James Packer's hotel in Colombo are different. 

The essence of gambling business is to suck the pocket of the client at the shortest possible time and kick him out. 

The motto of professional gamblers (those who earn their living from gambling; as a gambler) is to get whatever they can within the shortest possible time and switch to the next gambling point. 

Thus both parties will stick only to their main focus for the total period.

If the visitor wants any alcohol there may be many bars in the hotel; Women..? There may be Indonesian, Russian, Brazilian...whatever they want; Thai Spa or fish therapy to relax their muscles; They will be provided with every amenity within the hotel premises to ensure that they will not be escaped until they dry out. 

The visitor will most often spend all his money and leave the country empty pocket making James Packer even richer while the Sri Lankans will be satisfied with a meatless bone such as an odd job in the hotel. 

James Packer will get his return on investment within 2-3 years, thus the rest will be his pure profit. 

Just a single hotel with gambling in the city does not make Colombo a gambling city by it's true meaning. However, the investor can give such notorious label to the city by spending a couple more million dollars. Such pseudo publicity will have a serious negative impact on our tourism industry. 

A gambler is not a tourist as we discussed above. Thus a centralized gambling industry cannot promote tourism. 

On the other hand,  the present day statistics clearly show that family tourism has now taken over the bachelor tourism. If you are a regular traveler, you may have noticed that at airports, the sight of white people with kids has a significant increment.

Most often family tourists avoid countries famous for gambling. They prefer countries with scenic beauty or amusement themes (the country may have ample casino industry but not giving prominence to such promotion). Malaysia is a good example of such family tourism. 

Finally my conclusion is that economically viable decentralized gambling is not suitable for Sri Lanka due to its social impact to a nation with rich cultural heritage.

The proposed centralized gambling business is not suitable due to the economic disaster that it will bring to the country.

Thus, simply, the Casino Industry, is not suitable to Sri Lanka. 



  1. ////The proposed centralized gambling business is not suitable due to the economic disaster that it will bring to the country.//////

    I am 100% agreed with you. By reading about Macau's gambling culture & crime rate, it is easy to predict the future of Srilanka...Money laundering will be another unavoidable risk among all these negatives.

    So called centralized gambling is now a talking point in katana....then it could spread towards the coastal belt, Rathnapura, Kandy etc: James Packer's long sightedness & this ruling ****ers short sightedness is not a wonder.

    Thanks for your post.

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