In part of a crackdown on gambling crimes, Australian operator Crown Resorts has confirmed that 18 employees were detained and questioned by Chinese authorities. Those detained include Australian citizens.
Crown, a Melbourne-based operator owned by billionaire James Packer, benefits mainly from Chinese tourists visiting its casino in Melbourne. It is illegal to advertise gambling in China, but resorts like Crown are able to advertise tourism, leading Chinese tourists to the resorts where the casinos are located.
A Chinese foreign ministry spokesperson confirmed that some Australian nationals had been detained for questioning in relation to gambling crimes. A spokesperson for Crown said that they were working to ensure the well-being of the employees.
The Chinese gambling market has been the subject of a massive crackdown on graft launched by Xi Jinping’s government, which has particularly hurt Macau, China’s gambling Mecca. Due to this, Crown has seen profits plummet in the Macau market, and had planned to outsource most of its business there to another company.
Despite this, Crown has been profiting from the increase in Chinese tourists to Australia. According to the annual report for 2016, one-third of revenue was driven by international tourists, many of whom are Chinese.
Organizing a group of 10 or more Chinese nationals to go to casinos in another country is a crime in China.
The Ministry of Public Security announced a major crackdown on gambling in 2015.
Stay tuned for more on this developing story.