Casino operator Lawrence Ho has reportedly criticised James Packer’s Crown Resorts Ltd, arguing it was too aggressive in marketing gambling on mainland China.
In an interview with the Financial Times, Ho said the fact Crown sent employees to mainland China to directly market gambling activities in Macau had angered Chinese authorities.
18 Crown employees, including four Australians, were arrested for “gambling crimes” by Chinese authorities in October last year. Three staff have since been released on bail, but 15 Crown staff are still being detained in Shanghai.
Casino operators from South Korea were arrested in similar circumstance in 2015.
The arrests followed a crackdown by Chinese authorities on the illegal marketing of gambling activities. Macau is the only part of China where gambling is legal, and even advertising for gambling is banned on the mainland.
“In all of those instances (Crown and the arrests of the South Korean casino employees), you had casino sales people running around offering credit, talking about collection, it wasn’t discreet,” Ho told the Financial Times.
“That’s what caught their attention: ‘like what the hell, you’re deliberately spitting in our faces’.”
The Financial Times reported that a spokesman for Ho later added that his comments in no way singled out Crown, and instead were a reflection on the industry as a whole.
Crown sold down 13.4% of its stake in Melco Crown entertainment in December, and the remaining 11.1% was sold earlier this month as Packer refocuses on the group’s Australian operations.