Australian casino staff detained in Chinese gambling probe

by Ben Pena October 18, 2016, 0:50
Australian casino staff detained in Chinese gambling probe

Among these Australians is Crown's Executive Vice President for VIP International Jason O' Connor.

It is believed Crown's Chinese marketing team was arrested in a series of raids in four cities across China on Thursday evening and Friday morning.

It is not clear whether any charges have been laid or why the employees are being questioned. "It's unsafe and risky to open offices, organize parties, send business cards and even collect gambling debts in mainland China".

Investors fear that the detention of the Crown employees may indicate that the Chinese government is about to get tougher on gambling in Macau, where Crown operates three casinos under the joint venture Melco Crown Entertainment. "You've got to bear in mind China did the same to 13 Korean casino executives a year ago".

What Ms Jiang would not have known at the time was that similar Crown employee arrests were unfolding across major Chinese cities. It said it was still investigating the matter.

A Crown spokesperson told media the company has not been able to speak with its employees, but is working closely with DFAT to urgently make contact and ascertain their welfare.

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The Australians are being detained for gambling-related crimes based on China's laws, the country's foreign ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying said at a briefing in Beijing. The Australian newspaper reports that foreign casino operators like Crown circumvent the restriction by instead marketing the hotels, restaurants and other entertainment facilities attached to their casinos.

"It nearly feels like these types of arrests are "business as usual" for casino companies that operate marketing teams within China", said Grant Govertsen, a Macau-based analyst at Union Gaming.

However, casino companies are not allowed to advertise their casinos in China.

According to the newspaper, Melbourne-based Crown, partly owned by Australian billionaire James Packer, has been benefiting from an upsurge in Chinese tourists at its Australian casinos.

Mr Lucas said expansion in Asia was a big part of Crown's strategy and a crackdown on gambling in Macau could inhibit that strategy. Casinos in Macau have been accused of money laundering, notes Alice De Jonge, an global and Asian law expert based in Australia interviewed by Australia's ABC media outlet.

An influx of Chinese high-rollers appears to have buoyed Crown's operations in Australia. A third of the revenue the company makes comes from worldwide customers, majority from mainland China.

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