– company sees sinister moves by regulator requesting details of agents, services
A heated court battle is looming to challenge the powers of the Gaming Authority, the regulators of the gambling industry.
Taking on the battle is Superbet, a Suriname-headquartered company that has 57 gambling facilities in four regions and several employees to match.
On Wednesday, Chief Justice (ag) Roxanne George granted orders why the court should not quash the decision of the Gaming Authority to close down the operations of Guiana Holdings Inc., a company that operates Superbet.
Representing Guiana Holdings Inc. are attorneys-at-law Anil Nandlall, Manoj Narayan, Sasha S. Mahadeo-Narayan and Rajendra R. Jaigobin.
The Order of Court consists of an Order or Rule Nisi of Certiorari directed to the Gaming Authority, to show cause why its decision to close down the operations of the Applicant, Guyana Holdings Inc. should not be quashed.
However, the orders were not served on the respondents- the Gaming Authority- with the lawyers hoping that this could happen as early as today.
An Order or Rule Nisi of Prohibition was also issued restraining the Gaming Authority from taking any steps to interfere with or close down the operations of the Applicant.
According to Nandlall, the request the Gaming Authority has made to the Guyana Revenue Authority and the Special Organized Crime Unit (SOCU) or any other agency, calling in their aid to implement or give effect to its impugn decision is in violation of the court orders and “Contempt of Court proceedings will certainly be filed in respect of anyone who violates or aids in the violation of the said Court Order.”
Manager of Guiana Holdings Inc., Shrikant Kisoensingh of Bel Air, in his sworn affidavit, disclosed that the business is located at Lot 72 Barrack Street, Kingston. He said that the company had registered with the GRA and was issued with a Certificate of Registration and with a Tax Identification Number and later started up the business of sports betting under the name and style of “Superbet” in January, 2013.
Since then, the company said it had applied for and was duly issued with a Betting Shop Licence issued under the Tax Act, Chapter 80:01, upon the payment of the relevant fees of $2M annually.
“Additionally, the Applicant has duly paid all other taxes as they have become due, including, Corporation Tax, Valuation Added Tax (VAT); the Applicant also contributes to the National Insurance Scheme (NIS) for its employees.”
In all, the company claimed that it had 47 staffers on a full time basis and has its operations headquartered at 72 Barrack Street, Kingston, Georgetown.
The manager insisted that over the years, its operations have been open and public and have never been objected to, or opposed by any agency of Government or State.
Where is the licence?
However, this all changed on June 8, when the authority wrote the manager and noted that the Gaming Authority is established under the Gambling Prevention Act and the said Gaming Authority of Guyana was appointed the Supervisory Authority of all Lotteries in Guyana for the purposes of the Anti-Money Laundering Countering of Terrorism Financing Act.
The authority, in the letter, noted that it had written the company since March requesting all licences permitting the operations of activities in Guyana; all licences permitting the company to conduct internet gambling, sports betting and or lotteries in Guyana and details and copies of the incorporation documents and or other registration.
The authority said it received documents from the company but there was no evidence of any licences permitting internet gambling, sports betting and or lotteries in Guyana.
“You are therefore directed with immediate effect to suspend immediately all internet gambling, sports betting and or lotteries and any other form of gambling whatsoever and wheresoever in the State of in Guyana until further notice.”
The company was told by the authority’ to attend a meeting on June 23, at the office of the Gaming Authority to talk about the matter.
In its application to have the orders overturning the decision of the Gaming Authority, Superbet and its owners, insisted that its operations do not fall under the purview and ambit of the Gambling Prevention Act, and hence, it is not licensed under that Act.
Rather, court documents said, “The Respondent’s jurisdiction and authority are confined to the four (4) corners of the Gambling Prevention Act and its Regulations, more specifically, it is confined to the Regulation of casinos…”
By seeking to suspend the operations, the authority has exceeded its authority and is acting outside its jurisdiction, the company argued.
The manager said that despite all this, he and one of his lawyers, Manoj Narayan, on June 23, attended the meeting that was requested.
“At the said meeting, the Respondent was unable to point to my Attorney-at-Law, the statutory provision which confers it with authority over the operations of the Applicant. Yet, the Respondent insisted that the Gaming Authority has jurisdiction over the Applicant’s operations.”
The company said it even had one of its lawyers, Nandlall, on the same day of the meeting to write the Chairman of the Gaming Authority. In that letter, according to the court papers filed, the company said it was pointed out that Superbet’s operations cannot be considered a lottery.
“For this reason, we are of the considered view that our client’s activities do not and cannot fall within the supervisory jurisdiction of the Gaming Authority. Notwithstanding, and without prejudice to the foregoing, we request a copy of the instrument of appointment of the Gaming Authority as a Supervisory Authority pursuant to the Anti-money Laundering and Countering the Financing of Terrorism Act.”
However, the court documents said, it has to date not received a response from the Gaming Authority.
The company is also objecting to several demands that the authority has. These include tax records and audit statements for the past three years; monthly transactions for the past two years; a list of all the agents along with their addresses and a list of the games and products offered by the applicant.
It said the tax records were easily available from the GRA while the information on agents and the list of products could be viewed as sinister and coming from ulterior motives.
The company said that even if it complies with the illegal request, it will suffer significant losses with employees and others, almost 150 persons, likely laid off.
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