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The United National Party (UNP) today alleged that the government is not attempting to pass a bill in Parliament to legalize casinos but to provides tax breaks for James Packer’s “illegal casino”.

A false conception has been created in the country that the government is attempting to pass a casino bill in Parliament. The government is currently attempting no such thing, UNP MP Dr. Harsha de Silva said.

He stated that the casino bill was passed in Parliament on November 10, 2010.

He also said that government Ministers and MPs including the Minister and Deputy Minister of Buddha Sasana and Religious Affairs, Minister Patali Champaka Ranawaka, Ellawala Medhananda Thero and Athuraliye Rathana Thero did not vote against the bill.

For the first time in the history of Sri Lanka a bill for legalizing casinos was presented to Parliament, he said.

Harsha stated that many inaccurate interpretations are now being made regarding casinos in the country and that the government is attempting to say that a bill was brought in 1988 to legalize casinos.

“I would like to say, with complete responsibility, that no such thing ever happened. A UNP government has never legalized casinos,” he told reporters in Colombo.

The MP and economist stated that the only time legislations were prepared to legalize casinos was in 2010, under the Mahinda Rajapaksa government and it is called the ‘Casino Business Regulation Act No. 17 of 2010’.

He stated that the police are raiding illegal cockfights in villages and arresting large number of people while nothing is being done about the large scale casinos operating in the city without licenses. “Not one of these casinos have a license, why are they not closing them down?”

He also said that Australian gaming tycoon James Packer, addressing the annual conference of his Crown Casino in Australia, had said that the Parliament of Sri Lanka will approve tax benefits for him.

There is a big difference between the parliament may give him tax breaks versus the parliament will give him tax breaks, Harsha pointed out.

“That means the Sri Lanka Parliament is not being controlled by the Mahinda Rajapaksa government but by the Casino King in Australia, James Packer.”

“By inviting people like that to the country they are attempting to create another government within the existing government,” he charged, adding, that in the end the country will be controlled by that government.

President Mahinda Rajapaksa has told the Buddhist clergy and the people that he will not give licenses for casinos. We expect him to keep his word, he said.

However, government ministers such as Lakshman Yapa Abeywardena and Keheliya Rambukwella are now saying that that casinos already exist in the country and that they have licenses and that two such existing casinos will be shut down and shifted to these multistoried casinos, he said.

Alleging that these statements are false, Harsha asked Minister Lakshman Yapa Abeywardena to “not be afraid” and take part in an open debate with him for the entire country to see.

The government is not attempting to table a casino bill in parliament and pass it, it is attempting to pass a bill providing tax breaks for an illegal casino, he said.

He asked the government to present the bill to parliament before the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting so that the entire country will be able to see who will vote in favor of the bill.

He also claimed that the true intention behind the government holding CHOGM is to attract Packer’s casino to the country.