An Accra Circuit Court will on Monday, March 31 deliver a ruling in a case in which the National Lottery Authority (NLA) is seeking to prevent the Veterans Administration Ghana (VAG) from granting license to private lotto operators.
The court, presided by Francis Obiri, is expected to either grant or reject an application for interlocutory injunction filed by the NLA to restrain VAG from going ahead to issue the license pending the final determination of the suit.
Just as the court was to decide on whether or not to grant the NLA’s injunction application, Luck Web Ghana Limited, an online betting firm, filed a motion seeking to join the action and also to ‘arrest’ the court’s ruling until it was also heard in the matter as a third party.
After moving the application, which NLA vehemently opposed, the court granted Luck Web’s permission to join the case as a third party on the grounds that the NLA in its own pleadings had made references to a third party and could not turn around to prevent such third parties from joining the matter.
The betting firm was issued a licence by the VAG under Veterans Administration Ghana Act, (Act 844, 2012) to do online lottery but the action of the VAG incensed the NLA which insisted that under the National Lotto Act, (Act 722) of 2006, they had the sole authority to regulate, supervise, conduct and manage National Lotto and to provide related matters.
The NLA went to court first asking 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 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 it the sole authority to regulate, supervise, conduct and manage National Lotto and to provide related matters.
However, VAG indicated that under Act 844, the law mandates them to hold lotteries and cannot be stopped by NLA from issuing license to other entities in furtherance of the administration’s objective.
VAG 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.”
Luck Web’s Position
Moving the motion to oppose the NLA’s application for interlocutory injunction, Ekow Dadson, counsel for Luck Web, urged the court to draw a distinction between National Lotto under Act 722 and private lotto or lottery so that any entity that wanted to do private lotto would have recourse to Act 722.
He said under Act 844, an Act of Parliament had created another public body to conduct lottery for the purposes of realizing the objectives of VAG saying “the law recognizes VAG as a public body under the act.”
He said “we obtained a valid license from VAG which gains its authority under Act 844 and our rights and interests must be guaranteed.”
He said “if the court grants the injunction it will in substance have the effect of suspending the provisions of Act 844 which granted licence to us.”
Mr. Dadson also said the injunction will prevent VAG from issuing licence to third parties or operating lottery under Act 844, adding “this will amount to freezing an Act of Parliament.”
He said the reliefs that the NLA is seeking in the substantive motion are virtually the same as what was in their application for interlocutory injunction and should the court grant it at this stage of the proceedings, it would have determined the case without hearing the other parties involved.
He said the license had already been issued and called on the court to preserve the status quo pending the final determination of the suit.
Opposing Luck Web’s application on points of law, David Lamptey, counsel for the plaintiff, said “the NLA is the only institution set up by statute to operate lotto in the country and has the sole monopoly over the business.
“Operation of lotto or lottery is the sole preserve of the NLA,” he said, adding “the respondents are 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.”
He said NLA has 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.
“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.”
Kwaku Appiatse Abaidoo, representing the VAG, supported Luck Web’s argument and said contrary to the NLA’s claim, VAG was a public institution set up by an act of parliament.
He said VAG issues licence under Act 844 and not under Act 722, adding, “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.”