Written By Carla Harris
After pulling out of an agreement to build a $350 million, 450-room resort and entertainment complex in the Sri Lankan “commercial capital” of Colombo, James Packer has been officially declared unwelcome by the newly elected government. When the country’s new Prime Minister found out that Packer had scrapped his Sri Lankan development plans, he had a caustic response for the Australian millionaire.
“Packer says he will not come,” said Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe in a recent statement. “Who asked you to come?” He went on to make his intent absolutely clear. “Please don't come - not in this lifetime.” Prime Minister Wickremesinghe came to power earlier this month when President Maithripala Sirisena rose to prominence. Maithripala is backed by the country's main party of Buddhist monks, an influential group that strongly opposes any and all plans to lure gaming companies to Colombo.
The owner of Crown Resorts Limited, James Packer, had planned to include a casino in the recently scrapped resort development. The former Sri Lankan government had approved three casino construction projects, including one for Crown Resorts. When the new government blocked those developments, Packer refused to build the planned luxury resort without its accompanying casino. Packer also objected to the new government’s decision to revoke a promised concession that would have saved him approximately $1 billion in 10-year tax breaks.
If Packer is upset about Prime Minister Wickremesinghe’s statements, he certainly isn’t showing it. On February the 2nd, he was seen grinning broadly at a press conference at the newly-opened City of Dreams Casino in the Philippine capital of Manila.