Three Australian nationals working for casino operator Crown Resorts Ltd that were detained in mainland China a month ago have now been formally arrested and face at least six months in jail before their respective cases proceed further, reported on Sunday the Australian Financial Review newspaper.
The three were among 18 people detained in mid-October in connection with alleged “gambling crimes”. Investment analysts covering the casino sector linked the detentions to the marketing – to wealthy mainland Chinese – of casino gambling services outside the country.
A fourth Australian, who is said not to work directly for Australia-based Crown Resorts, is also understood to have had his arrest formalised, said the AFR. So have a further 13 of the original 18 detainees, said to be China-based employees of Crown Resorts, reported the news outlet.
One of the 18 originally detained, a Chinese national referred to in reports as Jenny Jiang, and described as an administrative worker for the casino company, was released on bail on November 10, according to media outlets.
The AFR said that – up to the time of the formal arrests of the three named Australians – there had been the possibility that behind-the-scenes negotiations could have secured their freedom.
The newspaper identified the three formally arrested as Jason O’Connor, the head of Crown Resorts’ international VIP programme, who was visiting Shanghai when the raids took place; Jerry Xuan, Crown Resorts’ Beijing-based director of international marketing; and a woman called Pan Dan.
The AFR said the three were being held in Shanghai. The news outlet added the round-up was understood to be part of a mainland crackdown on casino marketing within the country, known as “Operation Chain Break”.
In August 2015, China News Service reported that mainland China’s Ministry of Public Security had started an operation called “Chain Break”, said to be aimed at disrupting foreign casinos’ access to money flows from China and those casinos’ links to individuals that scout for gamblers from China.
On Thursday, the Courier Mail and other NewsCorp Australia newspapers reported on a previously confidential report from investor research firm Regnan – Governance Research and Engagement Pty Ltd. It was said to be critical of weaknesses in Crown Resorts’ corporate governance structures – in relation particularly to an alleged lack of experience in casino operations and in doing business in Asia.
The media reports said it was understood Regnan first sounded its warning to investors in January this year before updating its report on November 8 following the arrest of the Crown Resorts employees.
Crown Resorts’ flagship Australian resort is at Crown Melbourne (pictured) in Melbourne, Victoria. The firm is building a new resort at Barangaroo, Sydney, New South Wales, said to be aimed at VIP gamblers.
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”We expect Goa to quickly become a US$1 billion market as it transitions to land-based casinos (from US$150 million today), which is still just a fraction of India’s total GGR potential of US$10 billion to US$17 billion”
Analyst at Union Gaming Securities Asia