After being detained for a month, three Australian employees of a Macao casino have been formally charged.
The three Crown Resorts Ltd employees were charged with “suspicion of gambling” last Friday, said Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Geng Shuang. Geng did not elaborate on the charges.
15 other employees, thought to all be mainland Chinese citizens, have also been detained, but their fate remains unknown.
Gambling and gambling advertising are not legal in mainland China. Any person who “runs a gambling house or makes gambling his or her profession” can face up to three years in prison. However, gaming houses have attempted to circumvent this law by offering “destination packages” to entice mainland gamblers that have stayed away from Macao casinos during the ongoing corruption crackdown.
In October, Crown said “less than half” of its international VIP revenue, or about 12 percent of its total, came from Chinese high-rollers.
Although it may be difficult to reach them, mainland gamblers spend a lot of money at casinos abroad. According to Casino.com, Chinese gamblers represent 90 to 95 percent of Australia’s VIP casino demographic.
Although Macau is a special administrative zone of China, the former Portuguese colony is considered an offshore financial tax haven and free port, making its way for wealthy Chinese mainlanders to move their money out of the country.