Hope for the release of the 17 employees of Crown Resorts has faded after Chinese authorities formally arrested them for alleged gambling-related crimes.
Australia Financial Review reported that the 17 of the 18 employees, including three Australians led by Crown Resort’s international VIP program head Jason O’Connor, arrested last October may spend the next six months behind bars after Chinese authorities have formally filed the charges.
Jenny Jiang was the lone arrested Crown employee who was allowed to post bail on November 10 and was released from prison on the same day.
It remains a puzzle though what charges have been lodged against the 17 employees since authorities remain mum on the case. Earlier reports said that they were detained for “gambling related crimes” after a series of overnight raids in at least four cities across China on October 13th and 14th.
“They are not obliged to give any more information at this stage,” one person involved in the case, who asked not to be named, told the news website.
Most of the affected staffers were based in China as part of Crown’s local sales and marketing team. Chinese law prohibits advertising gambling services on the mainland but casino operators are permitted to promote their resorts’ non-gaming tourism offerings.
The arrest of Crown’s local sales and marketing team was part of “Operation Chain Break” launched by China’s powerful Public Security Bureau. A year before the arrests were made, Chinese authorities have issued a stern warning to casino operators to stop marketing to gamblers.
Chinese authorities have been keeping a close watch on casino operators who have been engaging in attracting high rollers from the mainland to gamble oversease by tweaking their respective marketing strategies.
“Some foreign countries see our nation as an enormous market,” Hua Jingfeng, deputy bureau chief of the PSB when the operation was launched in early 2015, said. “A fair number of neighbouring countries have casinos, and they have set up offices in China to attract and drum up interest from Chinese citizens to go abroad and gamble. This will also be an area that we will crack down on.”