Nineteen Crown Resorts staff, including three Australians, have pleaded guilty to “gambling crimes” in a trial that lasted only a few hours at Shanghai’s Baoshan district people’s court. Australian Jason O’Connor was sentenced to 10 months in jail and compatriots Jerry Xuan and Pan Dan each received nine months. All 19 have been detained since October, and their sentences will reflect time served.
Crown Resorts said in a statement to the ASX that 17 current and two former employees were convicted under article 303 and 25 of Chinese criminal law, which relate to deriving profit from gambling as a main income and organising gambling parties.
Sixteen of the 19 defendants were fined a total of 8.62m yuan (A$1.67m), which Crown said it would pay. It added: “Crown remains respectful of the sovereign jurisdiction of the People’s Republic of China and does not intend to comment further at this time.”
Casino gambling and promoting gambling is banned in China. Organising a group of more than 10 Chinese for gambling trips is also illegal, although businesses often skirt these rules by offering tour packages instead. The former Portuguese colony of Macau is the only place on Chinese soil where casino gambling is permitted.
The employees were taken into custody by Chinese authorities last October and charged earlier this month. Three employees were bailed while the rest remained in detention.
A Crown Resorts media spokeswoman said the company would make no comment on Monday, but might release a statement later in the week.
China is in the midst of a crackdown on the promotion of gambling on the island of Macau, where Crown’s joint venture hosted businessmen, officials and high rollers from the mainland.
For several years, foreign casinos have been engaged in an increasingly high-stakes race to lure the lucrative Chinese VIP market, skirting Chinese law that strictly forbids the promotion of gambling.
Since the detentions, Crown has scaled back its Chinese ambitions, selling down its stake in the Macau-based joint venture Melco Crown, before offloading its final stake in Melco Resorts & Entertainment for $987m.
The James Packer-controlled gambling giant has also faced a number of changes with chief executive Rowen Craigie departing in February and director and former chairman Robert Rankin stepping down from the board.
Crown Resorts shares fell to a year-low of $9.71 following the detentions in October, but were trading at $12.65 up 0.79% at Friday’s close.
The Shanghai Baoshan district people’s court confirmed to the Guardian that five crown staff, including Jason O’Connor, have been given 10-month sentences. Another 11 defendants have been sentenced to nine months. The verdict will take into effect in 10 days.
By: Benjamin Haas and agencies
Source: the guardian.com