Crown Says China’s VIP Gamblers Bring in Less Than 12% of Sales

  • Too early to gauge impact of China detentions, Crown says
  • ‘Informed commentary’ is impossible, Chairman Rob Rankin says

Crown Resorts Ltd. said high-stakes gamblers from China generate less than 12 percent of total revenue, as the company warned it’s too early to gauge damage from China’s detention of 18 employees.

The contribution to Crown’s total profit from these big-spending, top-priority clients is even smaller, Chief Executive Officer Rowen Craigie told reporters after the company’s annual meeting in Perth on Thursday. Crown is working with its legal team in China to understand why the staff are being held, Chairman Rob Rankin said at the meeting. No charges have been laid.

Shares of Crown fell further on Thursday, extending their decline since the detentions to 17 percent and taking the company’s market-value loss to A$1.6 billion ($1.2 billion). The roundup of the staff in China has sparked concern that the government in Beijing may be cracking down on casino companies that promote gambling abroad.

“It’s too speculative to talk about the long-term impact of the detentions,” Craigie told reporters. “We don’t want to talk about any of the details of what is happening in China.”

Gambling Laws

Crown reported net income of A$948.8 million in the year ended June 2016. Revenue was A$3.62 billion, of which VIP gamblers worldwide accounted for 28 percent, according to Crown’s annual report.

Anyone who entices Chinese citizens overseas to bet, or who tries to force them to repay their debts, faces jail. Macau, a special administrative region, is the only Chinese city where casinos are legal. Elsewhere, it’s illegal to organize people to gamble, operate a casino or make a living from such activities. The punishment is no more than three years in jail.

Rankin said the staff being held in China are entitled to be presumed innocent. There’s so little information available that “informed commentary” on the detentions is impossible, he said.

“Now is not the time to comment on this particular incident,” Rankin said. “There will be a day when we should and will.”

Mirroring comments by Crown’s billionaire shareholder James Packer, Rankin said he accepts China’s jurisdiction over the matter and the company is subject to China’s laws and legal processes. The immediate concern is the welfare and safety of those held, Rankin said.

One of the employees is a Malaysian citizen and Crown is in contact with the Malaysian consulate, he said.

The Crown staff held in China since last week include three Australians, among them Jason O’Connor, head of international high-roller operations. The trio are being detained for gambling-related crimes, according to China’s foreign ministry. Officials from Australia’s department of foreign affairs have arranged to meet all three Oct. 21, it said in an e-mail Thursday.

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