HIGH Court judge, Justice Lisebo Chaka-Makhooane, yesterday ordered Goldrush Group (Pty) Limited and its sister company to temporarily suspend launching their slot machine business until their dispute with AVANI Lesotho (Pty) Limited is finalised.
Goldrush Group (Pty) Limited and Goldrush Lesotho (Pty) Limited, which trade as Goldrush, intended to start slot machine business operations at Maseru Mall today, but AVANI on Wednesday last week urged the court to interdict them from operating until their court battle before the same court is resolved.
In the main court case, AVANI Lesotho (Pty) Limited – trading as Lesotho AVANI and Maseru AVANI – wants the High Court to set aside the decision of the Casino Board to issue two casino licences to Goldrush.
AVANI also wants the court to order the Casino Board to revoke the two licences it has already issued to Goldrush. Goldrush Group (Pty) Limited and Goldrush Lesotho (Pty) Limited 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.
Mr Van Rooyen also argues 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.”
However Justice Chaka-Makhooane yesterday ruled in favour of AVANI to interdict Goldrush from starting its operations until the main case has been finalised.
Justice Chaka-Makhooane made the ruling after hearing extensive arguments between AVANI and Goldrush lawyers on Wednesday last week.