Ten Crown Resorts Casino Employees Released from Chinese Jail

The first group of Crown Resorts employees, who were arrested last October for the illegal promotion of casino gambling in Mainland China, was released earlier today, Reuters reported.

Ten of all 16 detained staff members walked out from two detention facilities in Shanghai, where they have spent the past nine months. There were eight Chinese and two Australian nationals among them.

Nineteen Crown Resorts employees, both former and current, were arrested in mid-October 2016 for allegedly promoting casino services to potential VIP customers to the operator’s Australian resorts. Casino gambling is prohibited by Chinese law and so is its promotion within the country’s borders.

Three of the employees were released on bail shortly after their detention. The other 16, including Crown Resorts Head of VIP Gaming Jason O’Connor had to wait until June to stand trial. Ten of them were sentenced to nine months in jail from the date they were arrested, and the other six, Mr. O’Connor included, were sentenced to ten months.

According to court filings and previous media reports, the Crown Resorts employees used to travel around Mainland China and to offer organized trips for ten or more people to the operator’s Australian casino resorts. Although the offers were masked as ones that provided tourism opportunities, they were clearly intended to attract casino clientèle.

For several years now, gambling has been targeted by Chinese authorities, guided by President Xi Jinping, with a heavy anti-corruption crackdown. The anti-graft campaign resulted in considerable and continuous drop in revenue in Macau, the only place in China where casino services are legal.

Crown Resorts’ aggressive marketing approach appeared on authorities’ radar screen last year and both the casino operator and its detained staffers have been suffering the consequences from that since then.

The days and weeks following the arrests saw shares in the major Australian company fall drastically, hitting its profitability to an unprecedented extent. The employees’ detention brought yet another unpleasant consequence – VIP players from China withdrew from its properties around Australia, which affected Crown Resorts’ revenue.

In a bid to improve its financial and overall state, the operator decided to sell its international assets and to focus on its domestic business. In May, the company sold the last stake it had in its joint venture with Hong Kong developer Melco International Development. The two companies operated properties in Macau and the Philippines. Melco purchased Crown Resorts’ interest to become the majority stakeholder in what was recently rebranded as Melco Resorts & Entertainment.

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