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Sri Lanka poised to legalise gambling

[AFP, Wednesday, 10 November 2010 09:20 No Comment]

Sri Lanka’s parliament is Wednesday set to pass a controversial law to legalise gambling, which the opposition opposes on the grounds that it will increase prostitution.

The government is rushing through legislation that will empower President Mahinda Rajapakse, who also acts as the minister of finance, to grant licences to set up gambling establishments in specified areas.

Casinos and horse-racing bookies have been operating in Sri Lanka for decades, exploiting loopholes in the law to avoid an official ban on gambling.

The government is now proposing to outlaw gambling outlets completely after 2012 unless they obtain a licence. Violators will be subjected to a fine of 45,000 dollars and a five-year jail term.

The opposition is nevertheless opposed to the bill, saying it will lead to de facto red-light districts because of the association of prostitution and gambling.

The bill is likely to be passed, as the government has a comfortable majority in parliament.

The bill, which will be taken up for debate later Wednesday, aims to "provide for the designation of areas in which persons intending to start the business of gaming can set up their establishments."

Sri Lanka’s booming tourism industry is keen to set up more entertainment to attract high-spending fun-seekers. Some casinos in the city are also known as pick-up points for foreign and local prostitutes.

The government has recently banned billboards showing scantily clad women, following protests by Buddhist monks, but the country has a vibrant nightlife.

[Full Coverage]

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