Crown-Owned London Aspinall Casino Found Guilty of Race Discrimination

11 Nov

A London casino has been found guilty of race discrimination after allowing gamblers to describe black tokens as “n***** chips” and accommodating demands for “white or non-black female dealers”.

Read all about our client’s #racediscrimination#win in #thetimes today
That’s another great result for the brilliant @_ShaziaKhan thank you for covering this important judgement for #equality@legalhackette

— Emilie Cole (@EmilieCCole) November 2, 2021

The dire tale of racial and sexual discrimination is the latest in a long line of negative headlines to hit the beleaguered Crown Resorts, owners of the Crown London Aspinalls casino in London’s Mayfair.

While money-laundering, illegal marketing and licencing problems have beset their Australian venues, this story concerns an employment tribunal brought by 41-year-old croupier Semhar Tesfagiorgis.

Eritrean-born Tesfagiorgis worked as a dealer and inspector at Aspinalls for 13 years but claimed that the casino routinely allowed racist and sexist language to be used against her and black colleagues in what she called a “prolonged campaign of discrimination and microaggressions.”

During her appearance last year in front of the employment tribunal, Tesfagiorgis described some of the abusive and offensive language used, including terms such as “blackie”, “stupid black girl” and the “N-word”.

She recounted one such specific incident, from 2007, in which a wealthy patron called her and a colleague, Fiona Esoko, the “N-word”.

The casino refused to bar the abusive customer and instead removed the two black employees from the casino floor, replacing them with a white dealer.

When the same gambler returned two years later, the same issue arose and again the casino sided with the racist and abusive patron.

The tribunal heard that this wasn’t an isolated case, with Aspinalls management also allowing customers to dictate that staff should be white, or non-black on several occasions.

In 2015 and 2019, Tesfagiorgis was met with the same response when a patron asked for “white female dealers only.”

Her repeated complaints and reports to management went unheeded, she claimed, stating:

“My experience has continuously been one of gaslighting and excuses made on behalf of the patrons in an attempt to dumb down their offensive and unlawful conduct.”

Tesfagiorgis was vindicated when the tribunal’s written judgment appeared, unanimously finding in her favour.

It stated:

“Our finding is that the claimant and her black female colleagues were held back from going on duty because they were not ‘fair-skinned, female dealers’ or ‘western-looking female staff’ … The accommodation of the request was direct race discrimination of the claimant because but for her race she would have been asked to deal to the patron. The granting of that request was less favourable treatment by the managers because of race.”

After the verdict, Tesfagiorgis told Guardian reporters:

“I tried for many years to open a dialogue about the racism myself and many others were often faced with but I was either shut down, ignored or gaslighted each time. The direct discrimination myself and other black colleagues received was not an isolated incident. Although the tribunal could not rule on past events due to time limits, they have acknowledged this was the case and for once Crown Aspinalls will finally be forced to do the same, for this I am grateful to the employment tribunal.”

Tesfagiorgis’ solicitor, Shazia Khan, said she hoped the judgment led to “root-and-branch reform of the casino and gaming industry to address the racist and sexist conduct that drove my client out of a career she clearly loved”.

We have reported extensively on Crown Resorts’ apparent plague of illegal activities, with the Australian company announcing an AU$125 (US$94million) settlement of a class-action lawsuit brought by its own shareholders.

That related to the 2016 arrest of 19 Crown staff and affiliates in China for illegal marketing practices, the company’s share price tumbling massively in the wake of the scandal.

We also reported extensively on the embattled Australian casino group’s fights on multiple other fronts over the past few years, with links to organised crime, allegations of money laundering and irresponsible gaming practices all making the headlines.

As a result of all these issues, Crown faced, and still faces, serious issues with its gaming licences in Perth, Melbourne, and Sydney.

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