Court Decides On NLA, VAG Tussle

An Accra Circuit Court will on March 3 deliver a ruling in a case in which the National Lottery Authority (NLA) is seeking to prevent the Veterans Administration Ghana (VAG) from granting licenses to private lotto operators.

The court, presided by Mr. Francis Obiri, is expected to either grant or reject an application for interlocutory injunction filed by the NLA to restrain the VAG from going ahead to issue licenses pending the final determination of the matter.

In the substantive suit, the NLA wants the court to, among other things, determine which body has sole the 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 gave it the sole authority to regulate, supervise, conduct and manage National Lotto and to provide related matters.

However, the VAG insisted that under the Veterans Administration Ghana Act, (Act 844, 2012), it was mandated to hold lotteries and cannot be stopped by the NLA from issuing licenses to other entities in furtherance of the administration’s objective.

Under Section 22 (1) of Act 844, the VAG has 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 also 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.”

NLA’s Argument

Moving the application for interlocutory injunction, David Lamptey, counsel for NLA, said the authority’s application is grounded under Order 25 Rule 3 of the High Court (Civil Procedure) Rules, 2004 of C.I 47 and aimed at restraining the VAG from promoting, sponsoring, launching or advertising any form of lotto or lottery and issuing license to other persons pending the final determination of the matter.

He said “the NLA is the only institution set up by statute to operate lotto in the country,” he said, and cited a case involving the Gaming Commission ex-parte and the NLA in which the High Court affirmed the NLA’s status.

“Operation of lotto or lottery is the sole preserve of the NLA,” he argued, adding “the respondent is challenging us purely on the grounds of Section 22 of Act 844.”

He said that “it is an established rule of interpretation that a court must give meaning to the entire statute to ensure the purpose is achieved through interpretation, and it was evident that the NLA had the sole power to conduct lottery and prohibit anybody from doing same.

“Section 22 of Act 844 does not say anywhere that VAG should have power alongside NLA. Anything they want to do must come squarely under NLA Act 722,” adding “they cannot on their own unilaterally give people permit to operate lotto.”

Mr. Lamptey said if the application for interlocutory injunction was not granted, it would cause irreparable damage to the NLA, which might not be quantified in monetary terms and also bring chaos into the lottery industry, adding “we have established a prima facie case that the injunction must hold until the final determination of the matter.”

He said by the deposition of the VAG, the respondents were seeking to invite the court to determine the rights of the parties at an interlocutory stage, which was not proper.

VAG’s Response

Citing Sections 13, 14, 15 and 16 of the Interpretation Act, 2009, Act 792, Kwaku Appiatse, counsel for the VAG, urged the court to look at the enactments as a whole and not specifics.

He said nowhere did promulgators of the law talked about Lottery, saying “under Act 844, the respondent has the power to hold lotteries, raffles, or similar games.”

He said per the rules of interpretation, there was a clear difference between ‘subject to’ and ‘in accordance with’ and said Parliament was well aware of the existence of Act 722 but went ahead to pass Act 844 into law, giving VAG the mandate to organize lottery, raffles, among others under Section 22.

“Lotto is a form of lottery and they are all subject to the Gaming Act, Act 721 of 2006…Act 722 never defined lottery, nowhere in their affidavit in support have they deposed that the respondent has infringed on their rights under Act 722.”

“We gave out license under Act 844 and not under Act 722. We have not made depositions challenging their right under Act 722 to supervise National Lotto.

“VAG is thinking about maximization of economic profit. The lawmaker gave Section 22 for them to realize their objective and if the court grants the injunction it will inconvenience the veterans more than the applicant.”