Court orders Gaming Authority to show cause in move against Superbet

Acting Chief Justice Roxane George on Wednesday issued an interim order quashing the Gaming Authority’s move to suspend Superbet’s operations here and the Authority will now have to show cause for its actions.

Saying that the sport betting service Superbet, which has over 100 locations countrywide, was operating illegally, the Gaming Authority had directed the company to suspend its operations but said it had so far failed to comply.

As a result, GRA Commissioner-General Godfrey Statia and Police Commissioner Seelall Persaud were officially notified by the Authority’s Chairman, attorney Roysdale Forde, of the situation by way of letters last Wednesday and they were urged to take the necessary steps, which would see Superbet’s operations being forcibly halted.

However, on the said Wednesday, attorneys for Superbet succeeded in having Justice George issue two orders. She issued an Order or Rule Nisi of Certiorari to the Gaming Authority quashing its decision “to suspend immediately all internet gambling, sports betting and/or lotteries and any other form of gambling…in the state of Guyana until further notice.” Unless the Authority can show cause, this order will be made absolute.

The judge also ordered that an Order or Rule Nisi of Prohibition be directed to the Gaming Authority restraining the Authority from implementing or acting upon its decision to suspend Superbet’s activities. It also has to show cause why this order should not be made absolute.

In his application for the orders, Superbet counsel, Anil Nandlall said that Superbet’s operations do not fall under the purview of the Gambling Prevention Act. It said that the Gaming Authority’s jurisdiction is confined to the Act.

In his affidavit in support of the application, Superbet official Shrikant Kisoensingh said the company started business operations in Guyana during January, 2013 and from the start it applied and was duly issued with a Betting Shop Licence under the Tax Act, Chapter 80:01, upon the payment of $2m annually. Kisoensingh said that the licence has been renewed annually. He said that currently, Superbet has 57 locations countrywide and employs 47 staff on a full-time basis. Kisoensingh said if Superbet’s operations are shut down it will suffer great financial loss and the 47 employees will immediately lose their jobs.

Superbet which is headquartered in Suriname, is being operated by Guiana Holdings Inc, a subsidiary of its parent company, the Pasha Gaming Group. In addition to Guyana and Suriname, the company also has operations in Uganda, Cyprus and Belgium.

Forde’s letter to Statia called for the immediate suspension and or revocation of all licences issued in respect of betting and gambling premises, operations and or activities in Guyana “until further notice from the Gaming Authority.”

It was explained that the Gaming Authority, which is established under the Gambling and Prevention Act and was appointed the Supervisory Authority of all lotteries in Guyana for the purposes of the Anti-Money Laundering and Countering of Terrorism Financing Act, is currently engaged in an assessment of the gaming sector.

Statia was informed that the Gaming Authority wrote to Superbet/Guiana Holdings Inc on March 9, 2017, requesting that all licences permitting the operations of the activities in Guyana, all licences permitting the company to conduct internet gambling, sports betting and or lotteries in Guyana and details and copies of incorporation documents and or other registration be submitted to the Gaming Authority.

According to the letter, an envelope was delivered to the Gaming Authority’s South Road office containing a copy and certificate of incorporation of Guiana Holdings Inc, Notice of Change of Directors, Notice of Change of Registered Office, Limited Power of Attorney No 843 of 2017, Revenue Licences Nos 1525248 and 49, Valued Added Tax Registration Certificate in the name of Guiana Holdings Inc and Certificate of Registration for Tax Payer Identification Number in the name of Guiana Holdings Inc.

The letter stated that the Gaming Authority subsequently wrote to Superbet/Guiana Holdings Inc on June 8, 2017, indicating that the documents submitted did not indicate that the said company was in possession of any licence permitting internet gambling, sports betting and or lotteries in Guyana.

The company, thereafter, was directed to suspend immediately “all internet gambling, sports betting and or lotteries and any form of gambling whatsoever and wheresoever in the State of Guyana until further notice.”

Forde further informed Statia that Superbet/Guiana Holdings Inc, “has refused to comply” with the directives given.

It was stated that on June 23, 2017, the Gaming Authority met officers of Superbet/Guiana Holdings Inc and the authority’s position was again communicated to those representing the company.

“Superbet/Guiana Holdings Inc by a letter dated 21st day of June, 2017 under the hand of Mr Mohabir Anil Nandlall, Attorney-at-law contended that in effect there was no need for any licence or permit authorizing gaming activities and that it had obtained a licence from the Guyana Revenue Authority,” he wrote, before noting that Superbet/Guiana Holdings Inc continues to operate in defiance of the direction to cease operations.

“It is the Gaming Authority’s firm position that the licence obtained from the Guyana Revenue Authority is in respect of premises only and does not permit the gaming activities carried out by Superbet/Guiana Holdings Inc,” he said, adding that the Gambling Prevention Act prohibits all forms of gambling unless permitted and authorized under that law.

“Despite numerous demands for the production of such permission and or authorization none has been forthcoming as indeed no such permission and or authorization can be produced,” Forde said.

Statia was told that the company’s operations are in breach of the Gambling Prevention Act, hence the request for the immediate suspension and revocation of all licences.

A similar letter was penned to Persaud. It outlines the company’s defiance in adhering to the directives to cease operations. In this respect, Forde called on the police to “immediately and forthwith take all necessary steps to ensure that the law is adhered to.”

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