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China arrests three Australians in gambling investigation

crown melbourne resortsEmployees of James Packer’s Crown Resorts have been arrested for alleged gambling-related offences in mainland China.

Three Australian citizens are among the 18 detained staff of Melbourne-based Crown Resort after raids were performed last week due to suspected illegal marketing to China.

Chinese authorities have increased their efforts to combat illegal promotion and advertising of gambling in the mainland due to the recent devaluation of Chinese yuan but it’s been reported it is unclear specifically why the 18 have been detained.

The three Australians are believed to been detained after a business trip due to their duties of the the Crown’s international sales and marketing team. It is said one of the three is a senior executive of Crown Resorts.

A spokesperson for Crown confirmed the status of one of the three from the 18 to the Australian Financial Review on Sunday.

“Crown believes that Jason O’Connor, the head of Crown’s VIP International team, is one of 18 employees being questioned by Chinese authorities,” they said.

It’s been reported the Australian Government are investigating the arrest stating in an email to South China Post they are taking action.

“Consular officials are seeking to confirm these reports with the relevant Chinese authorities,” the email from the Australia’s Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade said.

“If Australians have been detained, consular officials will seek to offer appropriate consular assistance in accordance with the Consular Services Charter.”

Chinese authorities must notify the Australian government within three days, under the consular treaty between the two nations. The deadline is set to expire today.

This has followed on from China’s Ministry of Public Security cracking down on gambling in 2015, stating it is illegal to organise groups involving more than 10 Chinese nationals to go to overseas casinos.

This coincides with the recent announcement by the Crown Resorts – part owned by the Australian billionaire, James Packer – to separate the international operations in order to combat the Macau gambling market which has suffered under this Chinese gambling crackdown.

It has been reported, while Macau casinos have taken a hit to earnings, Australian casinos are benefiting from Chinese tourism, which may have something to do with the arrest. The Crowns 2016 annual report detailed one third of revenue was due to international visitors, largely tourists from mainland China, with a reported increase of almost $600 million dollars in profits over the past year.

It has not been revealed how this incident will affect further international business in China.

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