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Sri Lanka has received 10 applications to set up casinos under the new regulations and these are at various stages of consideration, said Minister of State for Finance Ranjith Siyambalapitiya.

Opposition lawmaker Athureliye Rathana, a monk, questioned whether two companies, including one called Golden Island Hospitality (Pvt) Ltd, had received licenses.

He questioned whether a casino has been approved for the Lotus Tower and whether casinos will be set up in Kandy and Jaffna.

Opposition lawmaker Lakshman Kiriella demanded that casinos that have religious significance should not be set up in Kandy, Sri Pada and Anuradhapura.

Minister Siyambalapitiya said the applications were at various stages of consideration and no licenses had been issued so far.

Last year, there were four casinos in the gazette that were charged a renewable fee of Rs 500 million for five years.

They also had to pay 15 percent of revenue and collect a $50 fee from Sri Lankan casino players.

The government planned to increase the fee to $200 over three years to discourage locals from gambling at casinos, he said.

Rathana Thero asked why casinos would be built if people had no money to eat.

Siyambalapitiya said there was criticism when the VAT was raised, but when alternative sources of revenue were found through taxing foreigners, traditional criticism was voiced that held the country back.

“I made it clear that 10 applications were received. We must remember already regulated casinos that have operated for many years without paying a license. We talk about taxes and demand not to collect VAT, but when a tax is levied on tourists, we are told not to do it,” Siyambalapitiya said.

“Then you are calling for an increase in taxes for the locals? There is a big problem in continuing with reality. Always with this traditional opposition, this country has gone to shit (waler pull-lerter gi-yar). Today it’s the same. We must recognize this honorable speaker,” Siyambalapitiya added.

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