China charges Crown Resorts employees in gambling crackdown

18 employees of Australian casino operator Crown Resorts, including Senior Executive Jason O’Connor, will go on trial in Shanghai on gambling-related charges, according to Chinese authorities.

In a disclosure to the Australian stock exchange, Crown Resorts said: “All detained employees in China, as well as those employees released on bail, have now been charged with offences related to the promotion of gambling and their cases have been referred to the Baoshan District Court.”

The company declined to give further details about the case, since “the matter is now before the court”.

The New York Times reported that in October the Chinese authorities arrested 18 Crown Resorts employees, including three Australian citizens, in a casino crackdown. Gambling remains illegal on the Chinese mainland, as does its explicit advertising, although Chinese visitors continue to drive robust casino growth in Macau and other Asian-Pacific destinations.

Moreover, Chinese authorities have been keeping a close watch on casino operators who illegally market to high-rollers on the Chinese mainland in order to entice them into gambling overseas. The inquiry is therefore focused on whether Crown Resorts’ marketing efforts crossed a line into pushing gambling more explicitly.

The detained Australians were members of Crown’s sales and marketing team. The vice president of V.I.P. international operations, Jason O’Connor, who oversaw the company’s efforts to attract wealthy players, was among those detained.

If convicted, the Crown workers could face several years in prison.

“The Australian government continues to provide consular assistance to three Australian Crown employees detained in Shanghai since 14 October,” Australia’s Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade said in a statement.