A Shanghai court convicted three Australian employees of casino group Crown Resorts after they pleaded guilty to illegally promoting gambling in China.

Crown Resort’s head of international high-roller operations Jason O’Connor was sentenced to 10 months, while less senior staff members Jerry Xuan and Pan Dan received nine-month jail terms.

Wealthy Chinese gamblers are often targeted by casinos, however Crown Resorts said that Chinese gamblers accounted for just 12 percent of the company’s total revenue.

Under Chinese law, casino gambling, and promoting gambling abroad, are illegal.

Even organising a group of more than 10 Chinese citizens to go on a gambling trip is against the law.

China first banned gambling when the Communist Party took over in 1949.

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The offence carries a maximum of three years in jail.

Sixteen other current and former Crown Resorts staff also pleaded guilty.

All 19 men have been detained since October.

“Crown remains respectful of the sovereign jurisdiction of the People’s Republic of China and does not intend to comment further at this time,” Crown Resorts said in a statement on Monday.

International high-rollers, known as VIPs, gambled $46.8bn (A$61bn) in the last financial year in Crown’s Melbourne and Perth casinos, the BBC reported.

In recent months, more and more Asian countries have endorsed gambling, a market worth an estimated $25bn.

A ruling last December made it legal for casinos to operate in Japan.

Crown Resorts, largely controlled by Australian billionaire James Packer, is developing a $1.5bn luxury resort on Sydney’s waterfront in the hope of attracting high-stakes gamblers.

Crown Resorts shares fell to a year-low of $9.71 following the detentions in October, but were up 0.79 percent at Friday’s close.