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China Sentences Australian Employees of Crown Resorts

News Shanghai court sentenced three Australians who worked at Crown Resorts to less than a year each for illegal promotion of gambling. Thirteen more employees, 12 Chinese and 1 Malaysian, will also have to spend a similar time in prison. Given that some people have already been months in jail, they will be released soon.

In the press release, Crown says that the vice president of VIP international operations, Jason O’Connor, was sentenced to 10 months in prison. The other two Australians were convicted to nine months. They are accused of promoting gambling in China. In mainland China, gambling is prohibited, but it’s allowed in Macau, a special administrative region with separate laws. Chinese gamblers also often visit Australia, the Philippines, and Singapore. Casino operators in these locations try to lure Chinese big stake gamblers and offer special services to them, such as private jet delivery, fast visas, and extra services upon arrival.

The Crown case is a warning for the gambling industry of the country. It’s very unusual for China to prosecute a foreign executive. However, it should be mentioned that a maximum sentence for gambling sessions is three years. Now hotel operators know that China is very serious about implementing their laws, so hotels will be even more subtle in promoting their hotels to mainland residents. A similar crackdown happened in South Korea in 2015, when more than a dozen hotel employees were arrested and accused of offering casino services along with free accommodation and prostitutes to Chinese tourists.

The prime minister of Australia, Malcolm Turnbull, expressed his concern about the decision of Chinese court. It was released that consular officials would aid the imprisoned Australians until their return to the country. The news also raised fear among foreign companies that work in China. Still, the destiny of the Australians is more fortunate than the one of Rio Tinto senior executive, who was accused of bribery and theft of commercial secrets and sentenced to 10 years in prison.

The Chinese government also fined employees of Crown Resorts nearly US$1.3 million. The hotelier already paid the fine. It’s not known whether the case would affect Crown’s expansion in China. This spring, the hotelier sold its stake in the Macau casinos. As Macau is the largest gambling market in the world, many operators try to do business there despite possible complications.


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