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Betting in Sri Lanka

Published on: 08/08/2016

Sri Lanka is an island which has been inhabited for approximately 30,000 years. The Dutch and Portuguese began colonisation in the 16th century and later in the 1800s, the British took control of the nation and named it Ceylon.

Sri Lanka became a Republic in 1972, and the first constitution was formed in 1978. A Civil War broke out in 1983 followed by a youth uprising. However, the island nation has been Peaceful since 2009. Since independence was gained only 39 years ago, Sri Lanka’s gambling Industry is still in the making.

In the 1960s, Sri Lanka formed the National Lotteries Board (NBL) - however, the organization has received a lot of criticism regarding the way it operates. Despite its negative reputation, the Sri Lankan Lottery has continued to flourish over the past ten years. During 2005, a company called the Online National Lotteries LTD (ONL) opened up many lottery shops throughout the country. In the same year, Sarana National Lottery was formed to raise funds for the post-tsumani relief campaign. Scratch cards were later introduced and today, a wide range of lotteries, instant-win games and online games are available.

Casinos have taken a little more time to become as established in the country. The nation has eight casinos in Colombo and one casino south of the capital on the coast, called Kollupitiya Casino. All customers have to be 18 years old or above and many of the venues accept foreign passport holders only.

The smaller independent casinos like MGM, Bellagio and Ballys, provide no more than five gaming tables. The Biggest venue available is the Ritz Club, which has 16 gaming tables offering roulette, baccarat and blackjack. Throughout the whole nation there are only a handful of games machines.

In order to boost revenues, the Sri Lanka government enforced new taxes on luxury items including alcohol and casinos. This new state regulation, known as the Betting and Gaming Levy (2004), quickly led to gambling revenues rising in huge proportions. Sports gambling and pari-mutuel betting have never been officially regulated in Sri Lanka, and the nation does not possess any horseracing tracks. However, there are a few unlicensed and unregulated gambling venues available where the citizens can enjoy wagering on tennis, football, rugby, cricket and volleyball.

Due to the Sri Lankans having limited sports gambling opportunities, foreign online sportsbooks have become popular. Over 450 off-shore gambling websites welcome play from citizens with Sri Lankan addresses. These sites are available in the English language and include well-known companies such as William Hill, Ladbrokes, Paddy Power, Bet365 and Unibet.

So far, there has not been any detection of betting web sites using the official Sri Lankan languages of Sinhala or Tamil. In addition to this, no sites trade with the Sri Lankan Rupee. Transactions are only possible using debit or credit cards in a foreign currency. It was reported in 2010, that the Sri Lankan government was contemplating the authorization of a new law to licence and regulate gambling areas. The idea was met with some opposition and it was agreed that any gambling activities would be kept well away from schools and religious temples.

The Sri Lankan Government passed an amended regulation in 2011, allowing wagering on casino games, sports and horseracing. This indicates that the country is becoming more liberal towards its gambling industry and that also Sri Lanka is looking aiming to attract more tourism.