Judge to de­cide on casino firm’s fate

Lesotho Times - - News - Tefo Tefo

HIGH Court judge, Jus­tice Lisebo ChakaMakhooane, will de­cide next Wed­nes­day if Gol­drush Group (Pty) Lim­ited and its sis­ter com­pany can launch their slot ma­chine busi­ness the next day.

Gol­drush Group (Pty) Lim­ited and Gol­drush Le­sotho (Pty) Lim­ited, trad­ing as Gol­drush, wants to start op­er­a­tions at Maseru Mall on Thurs­day next week.

How­ever, AVANI Le­sotho (Pty) Lim­ited wants the High Court to set aside the de­ci­sion of the Casino Board to is­sue two casino li­cences to Gol­drush.

AVANI Le­sotho (Pty) Lim­ited — trad­ing as Le­sotho AVANI and Maseru AVANI — also wants the court to or­der the Casino Board to re­voke the two li­cences it has al­ready is­sued to Gol­drush.

Jus­tice Chaka-makhooane’s de­ci­sion yes­ter­day came af­ter ex­ten­sive ar­gu­ments be­tween AVANI and Gol­drush lawyers.

AVANI lawyer, Se­nior Coun­sel Guido Pen­zhorn, urged the judge to or­der Gol­drush to stop op­er­at­ing its busi­ness at Maseru Mall un­til the main ap­pli­ca­tion was heard.

Ad­vo­cate Pen­zhorn ar­gued if Gol­drush started op­er­at­ing, AVANI would lose thou­sands of maloti from its casino businesses in both AVANI Le­sotho and AVANI Maseru.

He said the court should grant the in­terim in­ter­dict be­cause he had es­tab­lished a sound case in chal­leng­ing the li­cences.

“For an in­terim re­lief one has to es­tab­lish a prima fa­cie case and we have done so.

“The grant­ing of the li­cences sim­ply did not com­ply with law and it is un­law­ful,” Ad­vo­cate Pen­zhorn sub­mit­ted.

But Gol­drush lawyer, Se­nior Coun­sel Barry Roux, said the court should dis­miss AVANI’S ap­pli­ca­tion.

He said it would be un­fair to the com­pany and peo­ple who have al­ready been em­ployed to start work­ing from 1 Septem­ber if the court granted an in­terim in­ter­dict.

He ar­gued there was no need to grant an in­terim in­ter­dict be­cause the case was not ur­gent.

“The ap­pli­cant saw the ban­ners at Maseru Mall in­di­cat­ing we are about to start op­er­at­ing. But two months af­ter see­ing the ban­ners, the ap­pli­cant comes to court and on a wrong ba­sis.

“There is no ur­gency and you (the judge) should dis­miss the ap­pli­ca­tion on the ba­sis of lack of ur­gency,” Se­nior Coun­sel Roux ar­gued.

For his part, Jus­tice Makhooane said: “I will give my rul­ing on the 31st of Au­gust and it will be an ex-tem­pore (at the time) rul­ing.”

In its ap­pli­ca­tion, AVANI al­leges the Casino Board made a de­ci­sion on 4 Novem­ber 2015 to is­sue two casino li­cences and ul­ti­mately granted them to Gol­drush Group (Pty) Lim­ited and Gol­drush Le­sotho (Pty) Lim­ited.

How­ever, the Board begs to dif­fer, say­ing the li­cences were is­sued in 2014.

Gol­drush Group (Pty) Lim­ited and Gol­drush Le­sotho (Pty) Lim­ited trade as Gol­drush and are cited as sec­ond and third re­spon­dents re­spec­tively, while the Casino Board is cited as the first re­spon­dent.

In his af­fi­davit to sup­port the ho­tel group’s case, AVANI Gen­eral Man­ager Jan Adriaan van Rooyen says: “The grant­ing of the two casino li­cences to the sec­ond and/or the third re­spon­dents is in di­rect com­pe­ti­tion with the ap­pli­cant (AVANI); and for the rea­sons set out here­inafter such grant­ing and is­su­ing was un­law­ful.”

Mr Van Rooyen says he heard through ru­mours Gol­drush was plan­ning to op­er­ate a slot ma­chine busi­ness and made aware of re­fur­bish­ments at Maseru Mall for that pur­pose.

“I, how­ever, made in­ves­ti­ga­tions and it was only on Fri­day 20 May 2016 that it came to my at­ten­tion that the Board had is­sued to the sec­ond and/or the third re­spon­dent two li­cences to op­er­ate a casino in Le­sotho,” he says.

“These two li­cences were, as pointed out, is­sued to a li­censee called Gol­drush Le­sotho.

“Nowhere in these li­cences is Gol­drush iden­ti­fied in more de­tail. This be­ing so, it is not clear which of the sec­ond and/or third re­spon­dents is the true li­censee in re­spect of these li­cences.”

Mr Van Rooyen also in­di­cates the li­cences were granted against the casino laws that in­clude Casino Or­der (1989).

“The board must have is­sued such li­cences in vi­o­la­tion of sec­tion 10(1) of the Or­der in that Gol­drush could not have sat­is­fied the board nor could the board have been sat­is­fied that Gol­drush ei­ther owned or had an ac­cept­able sub-lease of premises on which the casino was to be op­er­ated as re­quired by sec­tion 10(1)(a) of the Or­der.”

He fur­ther al­leges Gol­drush did not meet re­quire­ments of the Casino Reg­u­la­tions of 1990 to ac­quire the li­cences.

“It is then clear that Gol­drush could never have been law­fully is­sued with its li­cences and nei­ther could the board have law­fully is­sued them.

“Gol­drush will, if al­lowed to com­mence op­er­at­ing, se­ri­ously prej­u­dice the op­er­a­tions of the ap­pli­cant at its two casi­nos at AVANI Le­sotho and AVANI Maseru.

“The ap­pli­cant an­tic­i­pates that much of its busi­ness will be lost to com­pe­ti­tion by Gol­drush, par­tic­u­larly to the pro­posed casino at the Maseru Mall. In­deed, the very eco­nomic vi­a­bil­ity of the ap­pli­cant is at stake.”

Op­pos­ing the ap­pli­ca­tion, the Casino Board chair­per­son — who is also Min­istry of Tourism Prin­ci­pal Sec­re­tary — Le­feu Ra­mone filed an an­swer­ing af­fi­davit in which he says: “I deny that the grant­ing and is­suance of the li­cences was un­law­ful as the Board has ab­so­lute dis­cre­tion whether to grant or refuse is­suance of li­cences.

“The ap­pli­cant could have ob­jected to the is­suance of the li­cences as far back as 2014 when the sec­ond and third re­spon­dents ap­plied for li­cences as this is made pub­lic…”

He adds: “The sec­ond and third re­spon­dents were is­sued with li­cences as far back as 2014 and be­gan their op­er­a­tions in 2015. It is there­fore de­nied that the ap­pli­cant only knew about this in May 2016.

AVANI Gen­eral Man­ager Jan Adriaan van Rooyen.

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