Australia investigates possible arrest of Crown Resorts staff in China

by Ben Pena October 18, 2016, 0:44
Australia investigates possible arrest of Crown Resorts staff in China

In Australia, Crown Resorts shares dropped by A$1.24 at A$11.71 in reaction to the news while Sky City dropped by 20c to $4.44, having earlier fallen to $4.34.

Along with another 17 staff, including three Australians, Ms Jiang, who also goes by the name Jenny, was arrested by police amid a series of late night police raids on Thursday.

This is actually good news for Macau as it may suggest China wants to keep gambling money within China. Previous year too, China had arrested 13 casino managers from South Korea on charges of offering free tours, sexual services, hotels and gambling opportunities to Chinese citizens.

"Under our country's laws, it is not just gambling and opening casinos in China which fall under gambling crimes", said one source, who declined to be named because of the sensitivity of revealing aspects of an ongoing investigation.

Sydney-listed Crown said it has not been able to speak to its employees, that it has no explanation for its staff being detained, and that it is working with the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade to "make contact with and ascertain the welfare of its employees".

The foreign ministry of China issued a statement, conceding that they have "detained some Australian nationals for suspected gambling crimes".

Chinese authorities are said to have begun the crackdown previous year to try to stop overseas casinos being used to launder vast sums from some of its wealthiest citizens. It does not directly run casinos in China but relies heavily on Chinese gamblers at its Australian operations.

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It also comes amid broader of context of China's anti-corruption campaign and a desire to stem illicit capital outflows coursing through underground banks and casinos.

In Macau, Melco Crown owns and operates two properties, City of Dreams and Altira Macau, and a network of niche gaming facilities in the Mocha Clubs business.

An influx of Chinese high-rollers appears to have buoyed Crown's operations in Australia. Crown's three Chinese casinos are on the island of Macau.

As Crown's gambling revenue has been falling in Macau, its 2014-15 annual report said Crown Melbourne had benefited from "strong worldwide VIP growth across both resorts".

It is industry practice for so-called marketing agents of Crown and foreign casinos to provide high-value gamblers with free accommodation and travel, as well as providing revolving credit when players lose their initial stake while at their casinos.

Brokerage Sanford C. Bernstein Ltd said in a June 2015 note - quoting Chinese media - that 14 South Korean direct marketers in mainland China had been arrested by Beijing police for allegedly promoting South Korean casinos to Chinese citizens.

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