Judge to decide on casino firm’s fate
HIGH Court judge, Justice Lisebo Chaka-Makhooane, 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.