The partners of a proposed project to build a resort city, complete with five casinos, in Katana are working with the Ministry of Investment Promotion and the Board of Investment to complete legal documentation, a foreign partner said yesterday.
“We still have some way to go to finalise all the concession arrangements,” Mark Vlassopulos, President and CEO of the Singapore-based Asian Resorts and Casinos (Pvt) Ltd, told the Sunday Times via email.
“The Katana City project is a large scale, mixed-use development with many different and interrelated components. To develop it properly, and in a way most beneficial for the area, we have to be sure that proper legal agreements are in perfect order. Our applications have been properly submitted,” Mr. Vlassopulos said.
On Friday, Opposition Leader Ranil Wickremesinghe accused the Government of having surreptitiously planned to set up five casino projects in Katana in the Gampaha district. He tabled a copy of an official memorandum that cited the project as the only cabinet-approved integrated tourism and gaming zone project in the country.
The BOI announced in July last year that it had signed an agreement with tourism developer Katana City Developments (Pvt) Ltd. to assess and plan Sri Lanka’s first large-scale tourism zone in the Katana area, near the Bandaranaike International Airport.
The project would include hotels, parks and other attractions, with all components integrated into a world-class master plan and would get tax benefits and transport connectivity, the BOI said. Economic Development Minister Basil Rajapaksa, who represents the Gampaha district, said the project was “only a proposal and a private sector investment”. He rejected reports that parts of the Muthurajawela marshland would be filled for the construction of the resort city.
“We are not considering gaming,” he said. “This is only a city development plan. It will be a new city with a golf course, housing, all those things, coming up near the airport. The proposal has to go through a lot of procedures. Anybody can make a proposal but it had to go through about 50 institutions before it’s approved.”
Despite the Minister’s claims that gaming was not under consideration, the Katana City project document, seen exclusively by the Sunday Times, said it would allow Sri Lanka “to attract and host five of the world’s best casino operators and investors and in an environment which allows these operators to invest quickly and with confidence”.
“Katana City will be a destination ‘cluster’ of world class resorts and related leisure activities which will be the new benchmark for active and managed gaming related tourism development,” it states. “With the completion of all phases, the project will see over US$ 3 billion of total construction (and up to US$ 5 billion) with Phase One alone constituting US$ 1 billion.”
The project document does not specify how this money will be raised.
Mr. Vlassopulos did not respond when asked who his local business partner was. “We have been busily finalising many aspects of the project and undertaking the tasks agreed with the BOI as per our 2012 agreement,” he said. “No further agreement has been signed.”
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