Business News of 2014-03-19

Third party joins NLA, VAG tussle

An Accra Circuit Court on Monday granted an application for joinder filed by a third party in the case in which the National Lottery Authority (NLA) is seeking to prevent the Veterans Administration Ghana (VAG) from granting license to private lottery operators.

Luck Web Ghana Limited, an online gaming firm, successfully argued that it would suffer irreparable damage if the court refused to hear its case.

The betting firm was issued with a licence by the VAG under Veterans Administration Ghana Act, (Act 844, 2012) to do online lottery but the action of the VAG has incensed the NLA, which insisted that under the National Lotto Act, (Act 722) of 2006, it has the sole authority to regulate, supervise, conduct and manage National Lotto and to provide related matters.

Main Action

The NLA went to court first to ask for a renewal of an interlocutory injunction restraining the VAG and its assigns or agents from “promoting, sponsoring, launching and advertising any lotto or lottery or engaging in any lotto or lottery.

In the substantive suit, NLA prayed the court, presided over by Mr. Francis Obiri to, among other things, determine which body has the sole right to regulate, supervise, conduct and manage national lotto or lottery in the country.

According to the NLA, the National Lotto Act, (Act 722) of 2006 has given them the sole authority to regulate, supervise, conduct and manage National Lotto and to provide related matters.

However, the VAG is insisting that under Act 844, the law mandates them to hold lotteries and cannot be stopped by the NLA from issuing license to other entities in furtherance of the administration’s objective and said it has not and does not intend to conduct national lotto.

It is the contention of the VAG that under Section 22 (1) of Act 844, they have the right to “hold lotteries, or raffles or similar games for the furtherance of its objects in accordance with the NLA Act (2006) Act 722 and the Gaming Act, 2006 (Act 721).

Section 22 (2) of Act 844 specifically states that “a person, who holds lotteries, raffles, or similar games under this Act without the express approval of the administration commits an offence and is liable on summary conviction to a fine of 100 penalty units or a term of imprisonment not exceeding six months or to both.”

Just as the court was about to decide on whether or not to grant the interlocutory application by the NLA pending the final determination of the matter, Luck Web filed a motion seeking to join the action and also to ‘arrest’ the court’s ruling until it was also heard.

Luck Web’s Motion

Moving the motion, Ekow Dadson, Counsel for Luck Web, argued that in the interest of natural justice, the court needed to hear them on the matter between the NLA and the VAG since they had become a necessary party to the suit.

“The court has a duty to hear us so that all matters in controversy shall be dealt with once and for all.”

He said NLA, in its reliefs, is seeking an order to nullify permits issued by the VAG to any other third party and said the court has the duty to hear such parties that would be directly affected should the court grant the order.

“We have a contract with the defendant. We have already invested about $400,000 into our operations. We have engaged about 50 people to work for us and have also imported modern equipment for our operations, which is the first of its kind,” he argued.

“The plaintiff’s reliefs, when granted, will interfere the enjoyment of the legal rights of the applicant.”

NLA’s Opposition

Asking the court to dismiss Luck Web’s joinder application, David Lamptey, counsel for the NLA argued that there was no law or provision in Act 844 which affected the applicant (Luck Web) as far as the issues in dispute were concerned.

“Act 844 which granted the license does not recognize the applicant,” he said, adding “the applicant has not been mentioned anywhere in the law.”

He said license issued by the VAG under 844 which was not in accordance with Act 722, was in contention and that Luck Web’s presence would never assist the court to adjudicate the matters arising, urging the court to dismiss the application with punitive cost.

The VAG

Kwasi Appiatse Abaidoo, counsel for the VAG, told the court that the VAG would remain ‘neutral’ in the matter and said they did not intend to make any argument.

Court’s Ruling

In his ruling, the judge said that NLA, in its own pleadings, had made references to a third party and could not turn round to prevent such third parties from joining the matter.

The court said that once the NLA did not amend its pleadings, the applicant could be considered as a third party and therefore any decision taken by the court could affect the third party.

The judge therefore ordered the plaintiff to serve Luck Web with the processes within three days and adjourned the case until March 25.