January 23, 2018

Main » China sentences 16 from Australia's Crown Resorts to prison

China sentences 16 from Australia's Crown Resorts to prison

27 June 2017

Crown Resorts Ltd.'s head of global high-roller operations was sentenced to 10 months in jail by a Shanghai court in China's biggest crackdown on an overseas casino operator courting customers on the mainland.

Jason O'Connor, an Australian citizen who heads Crown's VIP relations, was sentenced to 10 months in prison.

Xuan and Pan Dan have been detained since October past year, meaning they will be released next month after having already served 9 months of their sentence.

The sentences will run from the date the employees were first detained on October 14 previous year, meaning they would only have a couple of months left to serve. Two other Australian employees drew nine-month sentences for similar crimes, and will also be credited with time served.

A Crown Resorts media spokeswoman said the company would make no comment on Monday, but might release a statement later in the week.

At the time of the arrest, authorities alleged that the individuals were trying to lure wealthy high roller players from mainland China to its casinos in Australia.

The results underscore the fine line that foreign casinos walk in courting customers from mainland China, where it's illegal to gamble or promote gaming.

Casino operators across Asia have sought to lure Chinese high-rollers who have avoided Macau - the world's biggest gambling market - because of Chinese President Xi Jinping's ongoing corruption crackdown. The case has anxious foreign gambling operators, which have tried to lure Chinese customers to their properties.

Last month Crown sold a remaining stake in its Macau operation to joint venture partner Melco International, after shelving plans late past year for a Las Vegas casino to concentrate on Australian luxury hotel and casino businesses. "We will be continuing to provide consular assistance to the Australians and their families for as long as that's required".

"Crown remains respectful of the sovereign jurisdiction of the People's Republic of China", the firm added.

The industry has been known to skirt China's ban on promoting gambling trips by touting destination packages rather than gambling, or by advertising Macau resorts as venues for events like boxing matches.

Of the 19, five were sentenced to 10 months and 11 to nine months, Crown said. They were arrested in October during raids in four cities in China. The consul didn't say what sentences he or Chinese staffers received.

Billionaire James Packer has a 49 percent stake in Melbourne-based Crown.

China sentences 16 from Australia's Crown Resorts to prison