Today, the former British colony is a major tourism destination for China’s increasingly affluent mainland population.
After the civil war ended in 2009, numerous foreigners, especially those coming from China, have been coming to the Pearl of the Indian Ocean for sightseeing and tourism.
Seeing an opportunity, President Rajapaksa decided to give 4 of the existing licenses to bigger casinos on the condition that the smaller casinos close the moment the bigger brands open. He was hoping that the establishment of bigger international casino brands would bring in greater tourist revenues. Included in these 4 were Crown Resorts, Sands Casino, MGM Resorts and Caesars Entertainment. But this decision was met by resistance from the Buddhist clergy and some politicians. Concessions, which came in the form of raising gaming fees and increasing taxes, were made to appease the opposition. And to discourage locals from developing a vice, Sri Lankans have to pay $100 to enter a casino.
All this ended in 2014 when Maithripala Sirisena, who has strong support from the Buddhist clergy, won the elections. Sirisena has pledged to stop the transfer of these 4 licenses to the bigger brands. As of 2015, it had been reported that 3 of the projects had already been blocked from operating in the island country.
There are two-land based poker rooms in Sri Lanka, both in Columbo, providing a total of 43 live poker tables. Sri Lanka isn’t a large country by area so this puts everyone within a reasonable drive of one of these poker rooms should they decide to want to play some live poker.
This is certainly a good amount of poker tables for a country of this modest size though, and there are quite a few larger countries that have casinos but not this many poker tables.
Sri Lanka also now hosts a stop on the India Poker Championship, a series of monthly tournaments designed to promote the growth of poker in India, and now the tour has an international component. Poker has really grown in India over the last few years and this tournament in Sri Lanka is helping promote the game in Sri Lanka as well.
What is holding Sri Lanka back the most from seeing poker grow even more is the lack of internet access presently in the country. Only a small percentage of Sri Lankans have internet access, although that will likely change in the coming years, but this is definitely a developing country where the internet is concerned.
Given this, Sri Lanka has not of yet contemplated licensing and regulating online gambling and online poker sites, but this may change as more and more people get access to the internet.
For now though, Sri Lankans are free to play at any of the foreign based websites out there, and there is at least a little action going on here from them. There are no restrictions here like in many countries, and players can simply use popular internet wallets to move money in and out of poker sites.
There are no poker sites offering play in either of the two main Sri Lankan languages, nor do any conduct transactions in the local currency, and this no doubt has an effect upon the popularity here, but it really doesn’t take that much for a player to familiarize himself with another language, usually English, to at least be functional enough to play online poker.
So while the population of online poker players from Sri Lanka, and the population of poker players generally, is pretty small right now, there is certainly room for growth here, and in time, as more and more people become both more familiar with poker and have more opportunity to play online poker with access to the internet, we will see more and more Sri Lankans giving online poker a try.
For now though if you wish to play online poker and are from Sri Lanka, the poker rooms await.
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Poker Tour is an aggregation platform for poker clubs across Asia. We list all small and big poker clubs operational and provide in-depth review.
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