Following their detention last month by Chinese authorities, a group of employees from Australian firm Crown Resorts Ltd. have been formally arrested. The group are accused with illegal gambling-related activities, specifically the marketing of gambling to Chinese citizens. The Crown employees will now be held for at least another two months.
Chinese gambling laws being enforced
It is illegal in China to market gambling, but for many years firms have been creating a loophole by describing gambling junkets as ‘resort holidays.’ Fed up, the Chinese authorities have begun taking scalps: first a group from South Korea, a growing gambling centre in Asia, and now a group including three Australian citizens from gambling resort giant Crown Resorts.
Speaking to the Business Insider, Richard Huang from Nomura International said, “The key message from the Chinese government is that it will take the policy on the gaming industry more seriously. The law has always been there to forbid gambling marketing. Now the government is vigorously enforcing the regulation.”
Gambling is legal in Macau, which is part of China but like Hong Kong has its own legal system as a Special Administrative Region. Elsewhere in China it is illegal to organise people to gamble, operate a casino, or make a living from gambling-related activities. Those convicted face up to three years in prison.
Of the eighteen Crown employees detained in October, only one, a Chinese national, has been released on bail.
Crown Resorts ignored warnings
Chinese authorities are said to have warned Crown about its activities last year, but the warnings appear to have been ignored. Chinese high rollers are some of the most attractive visitors for a casino, and as has been seen in the once remote gambling Saipan they can quickly transform the profitability of a new venture. Crown’s head of international high roller operations, Jason O’Connor, was part of the group detained.
Australian authorities are seeking confirmation of the official status of their citizens. Australian Trade Minister Steven Ciobo recently told Bloomberg TV that the detained Australian citizens are still receiving consular support.