The Sunday Leader

The Casino Regulatory Bill: Let The ‘Games’ Begin!

By Raisa Wickrematunge

Parliament reconvened on Wednesday to debate the Casino Regulatory Bill (an amended version of the controversial Gaming Bill).

Ranil Wickremesinghe , Sarath Amunugama and Dayasiri Jayasekara

Though there were three other bills presented in parliament, the Casino Regulatory Bill was the topic of the day, causing furious debate between the government and opposition sides.
Acting Finance Minister Sarath Amunugama explained that there was a need for a regulatory body over casinos. He added, “what we want is to have specified places… as in other countries,” reassuring that the casinos would be confined to designated areas only. Amunugama added that the Bill was being introduced in light of the increase in tourism. The first major interruption came when Amunugama said he had closely studied the law on the issue. “Give us the name of the act, if you have studied it,” cried Opposition Leader Ranil Wickremesinghe. “This is not a quiz contest,” Amunugama replied. He then added that although he meant no disrespect to Wickremesinghe, his focus on petty issues was making people lose faith in his party. Chief Opposition Whip John Ameratunga asked what the big hurry was to rush through the bill. “We are in a big hurry to develop the country. You are in such troubled waters… you will hang on to the thuththiri at least,” Amunugama said.
UNP MP Joseph Michael Perera then rose to speak. He was continuously interrupted by Government MP A.H.M. Azwer, until in exasperation he said, “there are no such people on our side. We chased him away and he ends up in the government. He is a disgrace.” At this there were jeers from the government side. He then went on to accuse the government of disguising the issue with talk of tourism, while legalising casinos and gambling.
More specifically, Perera pointed out a particular casino located on D.R. Wijewardena Mawatha, in the former post office building and demanded who owned it. He accused a government minister or ‘strongman’ of being the owner of the group. At this, there was an uproar from the government side. There was further outcry when Perera objected to the wording of the Bill. “It says any place people enter for a game. In that case, even brothels can be included. Isn’t that also a game?” he asked.
Most of the opposition members pointed out that the Bill was contrary to the Mahinda Chinthana and argued the Bill was attempting to legalise gambling, which was frowned upon by most religions. “Is this how you want to celebrate the 2600th anniversary of Buddha?” UNP General Secretary Tissa Attanayake asked. He also said that instead of releasing people from the high cost of living, the government was (through collecting tax) legalising alcohol and gambling. “The government speaks as if all tourists are casino players,” commented MP Akila Viraj Kariyawasam.
Meanwhile, the government responded saying that the casinos at present were unregulated, some located near schools and mosques. The aim was to remove such casinos, whilst having them available for tourists in a regulated manner, they reiterated. Economic Development Minister Lakshman Yapa Abeywardena contended the aim was to develop the country without damaging its culture. Many government MPs also pointed out that it was the UNP who had in 1988 given licenses for casinos to open.
However, it was when UNP MP Dayasiri Jayasekara spoke that there was the biggest outcry. He said that the Bill would pave the way to a ‘Darling darling company’ where it would be possible to buy a ‘bottle with a beauty’. “This government has shown that [its] first, second and third priority is gambling,” he shouted over the uproar. At one point Jayasekara finally lost patience and began belittling his opponents. Most of his speech was drowned by loud, constant jeers from the government side.
Another bill which received some attention was the Default Access Special Provisions Bill, which aimed to restructure the Inland Revenue Department, by removing those files which had long been inactive. However, the Casino Regulatory Bill was on everyone’s minds. In the end, despite the opposition’s vociferous protestations, the bill was passed, with 114 in favour and 33 against.

6 Comments for “The Casino Regulatory Bill: Let The ‘Games’ Begin!”

  1. upu ranatunga

    Next is brothels. Athraliya rahana…….you also can put a jump……….

    • Dev

      If brothels are in Sri Lanka for decades if Sri Lankans visit them why not regulate them.

      Dont play politics in these type of situvatons… etc.

      This is a country had cassinos fordecades….. why not regulate them.

      WHY NOT PEOPLE OF SRILANKA FORGOTEN THIS UNTILL THEY GOINT TOREGULATE…….?

  2. Whose money do u think is used to set up these Casinos, its the 10% collected & the cash taken from the LTTE, sorry forgot the allocation to last years Ministry of defence, after the budget half of the allocation to the Ministry of Deffence for 2011 will go into this Casiinos. Mind you, its a family business & you know which family.

  3. pinky

    aney what a shame, is this a Buddhist country?

  4. kugan

    y people r so backward? let it be buddist, christian ,hindu or islam country.
    banning casino’s n so on r really stupid ideas.
    the government gets alot of tax from it.
    it needs regulation as well.

    we cant develop country with this buddist country attitude, separate religion from country. dont mix it together. do things to develop religion at the same time do something to develop country.

    its pathetic, our no 1 foreign revenue earner is sending slaves to middle east n talk about budist country….

  5. Calistus Jayatilleke

    With the steamroller majority of bought-out MPs, there is no problem even in passing a Bill to legalize prostitution and open up Brothels all over the country, again on the pretext of catering to the tourists. Wonder what happened to the mighty boast of the Hela Karumaya monks who entered in to the parliament and joined the government in order to usher in the much-vaunted “Dharma Raajya”. Shame on those monks who dont even deserve to be wearing yellow robes because it is better to be in civilian clothes when one becomes a Manthree Hamudurowo. Already one casino had been operating on the sly sponsored by a close confidante of the President himself – with no whimper from those who want to protect Buddhism. Nothing to worry, the Vasawarthis and the Athuraliyes of the Karumaya can pretty soon see the re-incarnation of Janapada Kalyanis and Nagara Sobhinis – just like in the olden days – adorning the street of the major cities. Who knows, one day they might even come to see these monks to listen to some Bana. Saadu, Saadu

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