Sri Lankan “casino king” Dhammika Perera has been tasked with turning the nation’s flailing economy around after he was appointed Investment Minister on Friday.
The 54-year-old was sworn in by new President Gotabaya Rajapaksa with a mandate to attract foreign investment into the country, replacing Rajapaksa’s younger brother Basil who resigned a fortnight ago due to pressure over his handling of the economy.
Ironically, Perera will now work hand-in-hand with Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe – a member of the opposition brought in by the President to assist with the crisis – who in 2015 described the casino boss as a “demon who protected the corrupt regime of Rajapaksas.”
Sri Lanka last month defaulted on US$51 billion foreign debt and is seeking assistance from the International Monetary Fund amid major food, fuel and goods shortages.
Perera, who has regularly featured in IAG’s annual Power 50 list and was named as “One to Watch” in 2021, owns three of the Sri Lanka’s five casino licenses, operating Bally’s Colombo, Bellagio Colombo and MGM Colombo.
He currently has interests in at least 23 large companies in Sri Lanka covering everything from manufacturing to finance and is widely acknowledged as the country’s richest man.