Last of Detained Crown Casino Employees to Be Released on August 12

The final six of a total of 16 Crown Resorts employees are set to be released from Chinese detention centers on Saturday, according to local media reports. The Australian casino operator’s Head of International High Roller Operations, Jason O’Connor, is also among the staff members set to walk out.

The company will thus be able to close a burdensome chapter in its history that saw its shares plunge considerably, its VIP casino business suffer huge damage, and its international ventures being scrapped.

Last October, the casino world woke up to the news that 19 Crown Resorts staff members were detained during several police raids around China. The staffers were arrested for allegedly promoting casino gambling, an activity that is prohibited by Chinese law. Here it is also important to note that the actual provision of casino services is also forbidden in Mainland China.

Three of the employees of the major casino resorts operator were released on bail shortly after. The other 16 remained in detention waiting to be sentenced. They stood trial in June and were sentenced to nine and ten months in jail, including the time they had already spent in detention. Thus, the first group of arrested employees was released in mid-July. Mr. O’Connor and five other staff members had to wait until around mid-August to serve their ten-month sentence.

The arrests triggered a number of important changes for the casino operator. Australian business James Packer, who left his Chairman seat at the company back in 2015, returned as a Director to reportedly participate in the creation of a strategy for its recovery.

Last summer, Crown Resorts announced that it was planning to demerge its international assets from its domestic properties. Following the China arrests, the company scrapped that plan in favor of one that would see it focus the greater portion of its attention on its domestic projects.

Crown Resorts gradually sold its holding in its joint venture with Hong Kong-listed Melco International Development – Melco Crown Entertainment. The two companies controlled casino properties in Macau and the Philippines. After Melco bought its former partner’s shares in their combined business, the latter was rebranded as Melco Resorts & Entertainment to be distanced from its Crown past and to mark the beginning of a new era in its development.

In Australia, Crown Resorts is running the Crown Melbourne and Crown Perth casino resorts and is building the Crown Sydney integrated resort. The company will have to develop a successful strategy that will improve the profitability of its two operational properties after it became known that VIP program-play turnover dropped nearly 50% during the financial year ended June 30, 2017 to A$33 billion, affecting revenue at both the Perth and Melbourne casinos.

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