Information gathered by Citifmonline.com indicates the two bodies charged with licensing and/or regulating the operation of Games of Chance in Ghana are set to face off in the law courts again following a heightening of tension arising from differences in the interpretation of their powers and statutes in the laws that set them up.
The two bodies currently fighting over turf, the Gaming Commission and the National Lottery Authority, have both claimed the power to approve who runs a consumer benefit promotion that may have the element of chance.
The major bone of contention appears to be whether the various promotions being run by the telecommunication companies in Ghana have elements of a lottery, which could fall under the NLA, or a game of chance, which could fall under the ambit of the GC.
The dispute appears to have reached breaking point with the desire by the telcos – with their appreciable revenue bases - seeking to grow market share with various promotions and games of chance; notable among these are the Tigo House Promotion, Airtel’s ‘Freedom to Dream’ and lately Vodafone’s ‘More Money’. The recent soccer talent hunt run by Guinness Ghana Breweries Limited, the Guinness Football Challenge, received similar attention.
In all cases the affected companies, received authorisation and paid the required 5% of the entire promotion prize to the Gaming Commission but the NLA filed suit challenging the running of such promotions without seeking their approval. Information reaching Citifmonline.com indicates Vodafone has suspended its ‘More Money’ promotion, which began last week. In the past injunctions were secured for the two telcos above before being allowed to proceed.
A Fast Track High Court, having refused an injunction filed by the NLA, gave Guinness Ghana Breweries Limited (GGBL) “one month to file accounts of profits earned from the “Guinness Football Challenge Promotion and TV Show” in a ruling handed down on June 17, 2011, with copies to be served on the NLA.
“The court, having refused an injunction which involves the making of profit, ordered the defendants to keep accounts of all profits made pending the trial of the right to ensure that the plaintiff would be adequately compensated if the plaintiff becomes victorious after trial,” it said.
Analysts say this back and forth over jurisdiction has deprived and continues to deprive the state of vast revenues required for national development.
The Gaming Commission is a statutory body established by the Gaming Act, 2006 (Act 721), mandated with the objectives of regulating, monitoring, supervising and controlling games of chance, excluding National Lotto, in the country under section 3(1) of the Gaming Act.
The Gaming Commission has since 2007, been issuing permits to organisations that run promotions with elements of games of chance until November 2010 when the NLA filed a suit, still pending final determination in court, to prevent the Commission from issuing permits and regulating such promotions.
The National Lottery Authority (NLA), which metamorphosed from the Department of National Lotteries, was also established by an act of Parliament (Act 722) in 2006, with the power to regulate, supervise, conduct and manage National lotto and to provide for related matters in Ghana.
The NLA on Tuesday August 1, 2011 asked insurance, banking, finance and content providers to cease operating or regulating illegal lottery or face the risk of being sued.
Mr Kojo Andah, Director-General of NLA, who issued the warning at a press conference in Accra, noted that those so-called promotions, including Vodafone’s More Money promotion, had undeniable and established elements of a lottery.
In response, the Acting Director of the Gaming Commission, Rex Peter Yeboah told journalists at a press conference on Friday August 5, 2011, that the GC would do all in its power including going to the law courts to seek a proper interpretation of the laws which set up both bodies, to ensure the public was not “misled.”
Mr. Yeboah said according to Section 72 of the Act, a game “includes a game other than Lotto in which participants in an anticipation of winning a reward on the results of the game which depends on luck and which cannot be determined before the end of the game, pay money for the right to participate in the game”.
“On the other hand, Section 56 of the National Lotto Act, Act 721, 2006 said “Lotto means a scheme for the distribution of prices by lot or chance especially a gaming scheme in which one or more tickets bearing particular numbers, draw prices and the rest of the tickets are blank”.
Mr. Yeboah said the key components in the definition of the game of chance were that winning the game must be purely based on chance or luck; the players of the game must pay money for the right to participate in the game; and the winners of the game could not be determined until the end of the game.
He said Vodafone’s “More Money” game possessed all the characteristics of a game of chance by the definition of Games of Chance under the Gaming Act, and not lottery or lotto.
He said Vodafone had fulfilled all of its requirements to the commission, including paying, to the commission, five per cent of the GHC1.75million prize money they are giving away in the More Money game.
“If NLA takes Vodafone to court, we will be there to present the facts as laid out in the law to make a case for Vodafone,” he said.
“It is important to note that the Gaming Commission is a regulator and NLA is an operator and cannot regulate games of chance in this country” unless in partnership in partnership with any organization subject to “existing law on games of chance” per Section 2(4) of the National Lotto Act, Act 722, and that existing law was the Gaming Act.
Given the various interpretations offered, the law courts appear to be the final arbiter of the matter which has direct bearing on national revenue generation.
By: Frank Agyei-Twum, Citifmonline.com/Ghana