Gaming Authority ordered to consider Sleep-In casino request - Guyana Chronicle

Friday 20th December 2019

AFTER a three-year-long battle before the High Court, Justice Fidela Corbin, has ordered that the Guyana Gaming Authority, (GGA) process and consider the application of Sleep-In International Hotel for a Casino Premises Licence and a Casino Operator's Licence.

The ruling was handed down on Tuesday, December 17, 2019, at the High Court.

Attorneys-at-law appearing for the applicant were Mohabir Anil Nandlall, Manoj Narayan and Rajendra Jaigobin, while the GGA was represented by Senior Counsel, Neil Boston.

Justice Corbin ordered that the GGA consider, process and determine the application for a Casino License, on or before February 28, 2020.

Sleep-In is a limited liability company duly incorporated under the Laws of Guyana with its registered office and place of business situated at Lot 288-289 Church Street, Georgetown, Guyana.

It was incorporated under the laws of Guyana, on January 22, 2015 with the intention of establishing a three-star hotel, offering luxury accommodation with associated amenities, including 155 rooms, two conference halls, a business centre, a pool, a gym, restaurants and a casino offering slot machines, live gaming machines and live entertainment.

Nandlall, in his application to the court stated that February 4, 2015, the applicant company and the Government of Guyana, represented by the Guyana Office for Investment, made and entered into a Memorandum of Understanding, whereby the Government of Guyana undertook, subject to the approval of the President, to facilitate, according to the laws of Guyana, a casino operator's licence to the Applicant provided the Applicant constructs a minimum of one hundred and fifty-five (155) rooms at the hotel. Pursuant to, and in accordance with, the said MOU, the Applicant constructed one hundred and fifty-five (155) rooms, two (2) conference halls, a business center, a pool, a gym, restaurants and a casino offering slot machines, live gaming machines and live entertainment at the hotel.

He further pointed out that on August 2, 2016, Sleep-In Hotel applied to the Gaming Authority for the issuance of a Casino Operator's licence and a Casino Premises licence. According to Nandlall, the applicant also paid the application fee for the two licences in the sum of $9M.

"On the 3rd November, 2016, that is, three (3) months after the applications were made, the Applicant received a letter from the Respondent informing the company that its applications for a casino premises licence and a casino operator's licence were refused," Nandlall detailed.

Sleep-In on April 5, 2017 filed another set of applications for the two licences to be issued by the Gaming Authority. Nandlall told the court that Sleep-In, in re-applying for the licences, specifically addressed the alleged deficiencies identified by the Gaming Authority in its letter dated November 3, 2016.

The documents which accompanied Sleep-In's applications included, its audited financial statements for the year 2016 and from January 1, 2017 to March 31, 2017; a letter from Trust Company (Guyana) Limited indicating that it loaned Sleep-In $140M to construct the hotel and casino; and a mortgage deed executed between the company and Wide Grace Limited, evidencing that Sleep-In borrowed $735M.

Additionally, a loan agreement between the hotel and Global Trading Company Ltd was also made available to the Gaming Authority. Sleep-In also repaid another set of applications fees in the sum of $9M. On August 3, 2017, the authority informed Sleep-In that its applications were under "active consideration" but later requested additional information. Nandlall stated that despite visits to the hotel, and a series of written exchanges, clarifications and submissions, the licences have not been issued to date.

It was only three months ago that High Court Judge, Justice Jo-Ann Barlow ruled in favour of the Guiana Holding Inc., in the civil challenge filed against the Guyana Revenue Authority (GRA) and the Guyana Gaming Authority, (GGA.)

The company, which operates Sports-betting giant SuperBet had listed GRA and its Commissioner-General, GGA and its Chief Executive Officer Lloyd Moore as its respondents in the matter.

Guiana Holding Inc. had taken the GRA and GGA to court after they refused to grant them a betting licence in Guyana and imposed the requirement of good standing certification as a pre-condition.

Justice Barlow granted three orders in favour of Guiana Holding Inc.

The first order issued and directed to the GRA and its Commissioner-General, that the decision made during the month of January, 2018, requiring Guiana Holding Inc, a Certificate of Good Standing, as a condition precedent to the issuance of a Betting Shop Licence under the provisions of the Tax Act, Chapter 80:01, is ultra vires, capricious, arbitrary, unlawful, illegal, influenced by irrelevant considerations, null, void and of no effect.

The second order issued and directed to the GRA and its Commissioner-General, compelling them to process, in accordance with law, Guiana Holding Inc.'s application for Betting Shop Licences for the years 2018 and 2019.

The third order issued and directed to the GGA and its Chief Executive Officer quashed the decision to impose a requirement of a Good Standing Certificate, as a condition precedent to the applicant obtaining a Betting Shop Licence under the provisions of the Tax Act, Chapter 80:01, on the grounds that the said decision was ultra vires, arbitrary, unlawful, illegal, influenced by irrelevant considerations, null, void and of no effect.

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