Monday, March 20, 2023

Court nullifies Masa Casino licence

Lobatse High Court judge Isaac Lesetedi has ruled that a casino license issued by the Casino Control Board to Workman Holdings, who were to trade as Masa Casino, was invalid.

The judge reached this decision while addressing  an argument  raised by  Workman Holdings which said that  the applicants in this matter, Sun International Botswana (trading as Gaborone Sun), Piermont Global Botswana (trading as Grand Palm) and Moonlite (trading as Gaborone Hotel Casino) do not  have a legal right to be heard.

“The applicants are entitled, under Regulation 5 of the Casino Act, to lodge┬áan objection for issue or renewal of┬ácasino license as they are also competing in casino industry and┬á carry out their casino licenses in Gaborone and are also affected by┬á the way the Board┬áperforms its powers┬á and functions┬á in issuing licenses in Gaborone, specifically where they have an objection,” said Lesetedi.

The judge concurred with the submission by┬áapplicants┬á that┬á publication must only have been made after an application had been┬á lodged with the Board┬á and that, in accordance with Regulations 5┬á of the Casino Act,┬á“the board┬á could not be expected to┬áreact to objections┬á of an application┬áwhich is not pending┬á but is yet to be lodged”.

Concurring, Lesetedi said, “The Board…cannot have powers┬áother than those┬á specifically provided for ┬áin the Act and that when┬áapplications come before the board, it has only two choices: either to issue┬á or refuse.”

He said that once an application has been refused for whatever reason, the applicant must start afresh as it cannot be argued  that  where Board is not satisfied  with conditions  or premises  and rejects application it can still be pursued on the same premises  which may have been modified to meet  specifics of the Board.

On the submission by the respondents that submission of┬á an application┬á need not┬áprecede the publication, Lesetedi said that, in his view, “it┬ámakes good┬áadministrative sense┬á and logic┬á that the submission┬á of the application┬á must precede┬á the application”.

Further to that, it appears to him not sensible  for the law to set out all requirements in detail to then give a right of objection upon the publication when the application itself  is not pending.
Lesetedi said that a license can only be pending when it has been submitted to┬á relevant authorities┬á and that, in his view, not much should be read into phrases┬á like “intends to apply” as that merely┬árefers to actual process of┬á moving application on the occasion the Board will be considering it.

He also said that he could not┬áadopt interpretation that┬á the phrase “intends to apply” includes┬á to “submit” since such interpretation┬á would lead to absurd consequences.┬á


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