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Crown Resorts employees arrested in China

18 October 2016

In the banking space, ANZ Bank, National Australia Bank, Commonwealth Bank of Australia and Westpac are higher in a range of 0.1 percent to 0.9 percent.

Three Australians visiting China on business as well as local Chinese employees based in several major Chinese cities, including Beijing and Shanghai, were detained late Thursday, Fairfax Media reported over the weekend.

The authorities have not made clear exactly what charges the resort employees have been arrested on, but the company suspects the charges are based around the solicitation of Chinese high-roller gamblers to overseas markets. Hua Jingfeng, a deputy director at China's Ministry of Public Security, said it would focus on casino operators from neighbouring countries that had set up offices on the mainland.

Chinese authorities would not detail the allegations, but it was understood they related to soliciting Chinese high rollers to gamble in overseas casinos - which can carry a jail sentence of up to 10 years. 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. Some of those involved are Australian citizens, reports suggest, but it's not known who exactly is under arrest.

'At this stage the case is under further investigation'.

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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.

Australia consular officials in Shanghai were making arrangements to visit the Australians to offer assistance, the Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade said, without specifying when the meetings would take place. 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. "You've got to bear in mind China did the same to 13 Korean casino executives previous year". Shares of Crown Resorts, the Australian casino company controlled by billionaire James Packer, plunged in Sydney, the largest drop since December 2007.

Chinese authorities are in the midst of an anti-corruption drive targeting money laundering at Macau casinos.

New Zealand and Australian casinos are a popular destination for Chinese VIP gamblers.

Although it remained unclear what prompted the mass detention, analysts said the move suggested Crown had misread the enforcement climate about marketing its venues on the mainland, where gambling is illegal except for regulated state-sanctioned lotteries. Other stocks like Melco Crown, Wynn Macau Ltd, and Sands China also fell.

Crown Resorts employees arrested in China