Sitting snug along a very busy highway that connects southern Africa to the rest of the continent, Letsatsi Casino in Palapye is perhaps the best located in Botswana. However, for more than a year now, this casino has been closed and will remain so this coming long weekend when gambling business would be roaring.
For now at least, this closure comes courtesy of the Court of Appeal which has just ruled in favour of the Attorney General acting on behalf of the Minister of Investment, Trade and Industry in a case relating to a licence application by Letsatsi.
Early last year, Letsatsi unsuccesfully applied for a renewal of its licence to the Gambling Authority and as a result had to shut down. It appealed to the minister who upheld the Authority’s decision. It was then that the casino went to the High Court which ruled in its favour. In turn, the Authority unsuccesfully applied for a stay of execution and proceeded to the Court of Appeal where it succeeded. Justice Isaac Lesetedi stayed the High Court’s decision pending the outcome of the substantive appeal at the same court.
Striking down the High Court’s judgement, Lesetedi said that while the latter issued an order that required implementation in the form of re-opening of the casino, such order gave no time lines as required by the State Proceedings Act. The judge also agreed with the Authority’s argument that it is in the public’s interest that gambling must be controlled, that the licence must be renewed on its merits and that if the latter doesn’t happen, public interest would be undermined by any implementation of the High Court order pending the appeal.
“Permitting [Letsatsi Casino] to operate a gambling enterprise under a licence when its qualification for renewal has not been subject to evaluation on the merits has the potential of prejudice to the legislative intent for such regulation and the public interest which the regulatory framework was intended to safeguard,” Lesetedi’s judgement says.
Prospects for success at the Court of Appeal are an important consideration when a stay-of-execution application is considered. Lesetedi says that without pre-empting what the Court of Appeal may decide, “I am of the view that the applicant has good prospects of success on appeal at the very least, in respect of the substitution order.” The latter is one in which the High Court overturned the minister’s decision and ordered that the casino resume operations.
“The High Court did not, in its judgement, set out the exceptional circumstances upon which it exercised its discretion in granting that order,” Lesetedi said.