Crown Resorts Employees Charged with ‘Promotion of Gambling’

crown employees chargedCrown Resorts is recognised as one of Australia’s largest gaming and entertainment groups. Last year, in October 2016, Chinese officials carried out raids across four cities and a number of Crown staff were detained in Shanghai for ‘gambling crimes’. James Packer, Chairman at Crowns, recently announced that a total of 17 Crown employees, have now been formally charged with  ‘Promotion of Gambling’ offences.

Crown Resorts Employees

The employees charged include fourteen Chinese nationals, three Australians, and one Malaysian. The most senior member of staff arrested is Australian Jason O’Connor. He is a father-of-two and is the company’s executive general manager in charge of international VIP relations. His responsibilities include, but are not limited to, luring flash casino players to Crown Casino in Melbourne. Prior to his arrest he was working as the Head of Marketing, along with Shanghai employee Jiang Ling, who was also charged.

China Gambling Law

Excluding government-run lotteries, and specific districts of Hong Kong and Macau, it is illegal to gamble in China. However, foreign casino operators have boldly tried to sidestep the ban. They do this by advertising the resorts and locations where the casinos operate. Jason O’Connor and other employees  were directly advertising for clients on Chinese mainland for around a year before the arrests. Chinese law stipulates that casino operators can only promote hotels, restaurants and entertainment facilities, not casinos. The Chinese Government launched Operation Chain Break in order to stifle the flow of cash leaving China and ending up in the hands of foreign casinos. Prior to the Crown arrests, Korean operators – Grand Korea Leisure and Paradise Co were also targeted and arrests were made too.

Promotion of Gambling & Sentencing

Promotion of gambling is a serious violation and can carry a hefty sentence. Last year in October, Defence lawyer Chen Youxi released a statement to the Financial Review. He said that if the Crown employees are found guilty in a court of law, they could face up to ten years in a Chinese prison cell. However, today we know that the charges are less serious than Youxi previously predicted. The employee’s’ cases have only been sent to a district-level, and not a city-level court. Therefore, it is believed that the gambling offences could see Crown staff face a lighter sentence of around three years behind bars. Crown also released a statement to say that “with the matter now before the court, we will be making no further comments”.

Shareholders Pull out of Crowns

James Packer’s gaming empire is now under fire. In the wake of the arrests last year, many of the shareholders exited their stock. Shares dropped to 14% in a single day when the news of the arrests went public. This year, Crown Resorts shares are up 19% so far. In addition, Packer’s Barangaroo casino, which is located on Sydney Harbor, is still intended to be a dream destination for high-rollers from across Asia. The Chinese Government are working hard to cut back the flow of money pouring into these casinos. They will be hoping that the recent charges brought against Crown Resorts employees will set an example and provide  the wake up call. They are sending the message loud and clear that foreign operators must stop illegal gambling promotion on their soil.

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