Court halts wind-up of free zone gaming firm Olympic Sports gets injunction against BGLC ERICA VIRTUE, Observer writer Tuesday, August 17, 2004
HIGH COURT judge Marjorie Cole-Smith has issued an injunction halting, at least until September 9, the move by the Betting, Gaming and Lotteries Commission (BGLC) to shut down a Montego Bay Free Zone company which it accused of illegally taking bets via the Internet and international toll-free telephone calls.
The BGLC had also ruled that Spiros George Athanas, one of the owners of Olympic Sports Data Services Limited, was not a "fit and proper person" to run a gaming operation.
But last Thursday, on the eve of the expiry of the BGLC`s three-month winding-up window, Justice Cole-Smith granted the 28-day ex-parte injunction to Olympic Sports, which the gaming authorities have vowed to contest.
"The Commission was issued with a copy to the order late Thursday (and) it was brought to my attention last Friday," BGLC`s chairman, Walter Scott, said yesterday. "I will say this much. The Solicitor-General will be contacted to vigorously defend the motion on behalf of the commission." Scott declined to comment further.
Jamaica last year began to focus on the company when the British gaming board accused the company of illegal bookmaking.
In May, the BGLC, which regulates the Jamaican gaming industry, ordered, after months of investigation and wrangling between both sides, that Olympic Sports wind up its operations, insisting that its bet-taking business breached Jamaican laws.
The company was initially granted a licence to operate a telemarketing business from the free zone, but branched out into gambling, taking bets from around the world, including Jamaica. Winnings had to be sent abroad.
English Sports` servers are located abroad and this, plus the fact that it operated on the free zone, at first took issues about the jurisdiction of the Betting, Gaming and Lotteries Commission.
The company subsequently argued that it possessed a licence to conduct its gaming operation, eventually producing a letter from former junior finance minister, Errol Ennis, suggesting that it may not have needed a BGLC licence.
It, however, applied for the licence, which the gaming authority refused.
English Sports` situation was further complicated by accusations from at least one foreign government, that it was involved in money laundering, leading Jamaican financial investigators to raid the company in April and seize records and other documents.
When the company`s business was disrupted in May, about 200 persons lost their jobs.