Sri Lanka seeking to tackle unregulated online gambling amidst calls for casino regulator

Sri Lanka seeking to tackle unregulated online gambling amidst calls for casino regulator
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In a recent meeting of the Committee on Public Finance (CoPF), concerns were raised about the operation of online casinos in Sri Lanka, despite laws prohibiting such activities. Dr. Harsha de Silva, the Chair of the committee, stressed on the need for immediate action to address this issue, directing a letter to the Minister of Finance for urgent attention.

The meeting, held under Dr. de Silva's chairmanship, discussed the absence of a regulatory framework for casinos in the country.Officials from the Ministry of Finance and the Central Bank of Sri Lanka too acknowledged the significance of establishing a regulator to address various issues related to the industry.

Dr. de Silva urged officials to expedite the process of enacting laws to establish a regulatory authority, emphasizing its importance in attracting foreign investment and ensuring the government collects due revenue from the casino business.In response to these discussions, the Committee reviewed and approved regulations and orders under the Casino Business (Regulation) Act No. 17 of 2010. 

It should be noted that Sri Lanka's Cabinet of Ministers gave its approval for the establishment of a Gambling Regulatory Authority last year,which was set to be responsible for supervising the country's gambling industry and ensuring the proper collection of tax revenues.

The government, at that point, stated that the objective was not only to guarantee the full collection of taxes but also to implement regulations that combat illegal activities and mitigate the potential harms associated with gambling. Earlier reports suggested that the regulator would grant licenses with a duration of up to 20 years, while casinos would be subjected to a 40% tax on profits in addition to their annual license fee of Rs 500 million ($1.3 million).

Earlier this year, Sri Lanka introduced amendments to its casino licensing regulations, imposing minimum investment thresholds and revising fee structures. The move, effective from January 1, 2024, marked a shift in the country's approach to integrated development projects and followed the submission of ten casino applications. 

Sri Lanka currently has six operational casinos:Bally’s, Bellagio, Casino Marina, Stardust, Continental Club, and The Ritz Club. The revised Casino Business Licensing Regulation No. 01 of 2022, issued by President Ranil Wickremesinghe in his capacity as the Minister of Finance, aims to increase accountability and sustainability in the licensing process.