Last Crown employees freed from Chinese prison

One of 19 Crown Resorts employees leaving a Shanghai court in June
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China has released all of the Crown Resorts employees who were imprisoned as part of a gambling crackdown last year.

Nineteen employees found themselves arrested following accusations of breaching local anti-corruption laws by organising banned gambling activities overseas aimed at wealthy Chinese players.

“Crown is pleased that all of our employees have now been released and reunited with their families and loved ones,” executive chairman John Alexander said.

The defendants had pleaded guilty to promoting gambling at a Shanghai court in June and 16 of them were given sentences of between nine and ten months in prison.

The most high-profile of the imprisoned employees was Jason O’Connor, who served as executive vice-president of Crown division VIP International. In charge of attracting Chinese players to Australia, O’Connor was also fined $300,000.

The three defendants who were granted bail in November were not jailed.

Crown’s legal team hailed the release a small victory, citing that it had achieved their freedom through a diplomatic, behind-the-scenes approach and were careful not to publicly criticise the Chinese regulatory or legal system.

The episode prompted a major restructuring at Crown, which runs its flagship casino in Melbourne and is also developing a large gaming resort in Sydney.

With revenues from Chinese high rollers falling, the company last year sold its stake in Macau’s Melco joint venture and shelved plans for a Las Vegas casino, concentrating instead on its Australian operations.

Additionally, Alexander told investors earlier this month the company is reviewing its VIP strategy, and had stepped back from its “aggressive” position in the VIP market.

Shares in Crown Resorts closed 0.4 percent higher at A$11.55 on 14 August on the Australian stock exchange.

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