Star Entertainment chief cancels trip as Crown fallout continues
Matt Bekier, chief executive of rival casino company The Star Entertainment Group, has cancelled a trip to Macau Just five days after 18 Crown employees were detained in China on suspicion of “gambling crimes”.
Although The Star would not give a reason for Mr Bekier’s change of plans it seems that foreign casino executives are nervous about visiting the former Portuguese colony.
Macau is known as the “Las Vegas of Asia” and does have a degree of autonomy as the only place in China where gambling is legal, it is ultimately controlled by Beijing.
The Star has marketing operations, similar to those of Crown, on the mainland and has benefited from an uptick in big spending gamblers from China in recent years.
Reporters have been told in recent months that The Star had at least a dozen marketing staff on the mainland, mostly Chinese nationals and that it had ramped up its promotional activities during that time.
A spokesman for The Star, which runs casinos in Sydney, Brisbane and on the Gold Coast, declined to say why Mr Bekier cancelled his trip. “We don’t discuss Matt’s travel arrangements,” a spokesman said.
As investors sell down stocks amid concern Chinese high rollers will be reluctant to visit Australia, casinos across the region are scrambling to respond to China’s move against foreign operators marketing their gambling activities on the mainland.
Mr Bekier had scheduled a series of meetings in Macau on Tuesday last week, but scrapped the trip after the Crown news broke.
Chinese authorities have detained 18 employees of billionaire James Packer’s Crown Resorts, including three top Australian executives, in a co-ordinated police operation targeting the gaming giant’s marketing activities in China.
The Most senior employee among those detained was Jason O’Connor, the company’s executive general manager in charge of international VIP services.
The Australian is reporting that according to Chinese legal experts, the crown staff can be held for up to a year without facing formal charges.