January 31, 2015 / 2:27 AM / 3 years ago

Australia's Crown Resorts drops Sri Lanka $400 mln casino plan

PERTH, Australia, Jan 31 (Reuters) - Australian gaming mogul James Packer’s Crown Resorts Ltd. has scrapped a proposed $400 million luxury hotel and resort development in Sri Lanka after Colombo’s new government withdrew approvals for casinos.

Crown’s proposal was one of three casino developments impacted by Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe’s announcement on Thursday that tax concessions to the projects had been amended and casino approvals cancelled.

“We respect the Sri Lankan government’s decision and on that basis our project will not be going ahead,” a spokeswoman for Crown told Reuters on Saturday.

Packer, one of Australia’s richest men, received Sri Lankan cabinet approval for the $400 million mixed-use resort and casino project in 2013, but its terms were altered in the face of opposition from some Buddhist leaders and political parties, and construction had not begun.

The project’s cancellation comes as Sri Lankan conglomerate John Keells Holdings said on Friday its $850 million construction project, including a casino, approved by the previous government was still viable and would continue as planned despite a ban on the gaming facility.

A $300 million Queensbury resort planned by Sri Lanka’s Vallibel One Plc, expected to also include a casino, also had its approval revoked.

Wickremesinghe’s announcement was widely expected following an election pledge by new President Maithripala Sirisena to cancel the casino licences. The casinos faced opposition from Buddhist leaders and others in government over fears that gaming could lead to a boom in prostitution and damage values and culture in the mainly Buddhist island nation.

Sirisena won a Jan. 8 election, ending a decade of authoritarian rule by President Mahinda Rajapaksa. (Editing by Jeremy Laurence)

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