Three employees of Australia’s Crown Resorts Ltd. were detained by Chinese authorities yesterday as part of a wider crackdown on overseas gambling.
Casinos are illegal in China outside the Macau Special Administrative Region (pictured), as is advertising gambling to Chinese citizens.
Macau has seen a recent decline in gambling revenues thanks to a clampdown by President Xi Jinping, but other international destinations have come forward to fill the gap in the market. Foreign companies such as Crown are accused of skirting the law by focusing their sales on resort ‘destinations’ rather than the gambling activities available to Chinese visitors after arrival.
The efforts by the Chinese authorities, dubbed “Duanlian,” or “break the chain,” seeks to destroy personal and financial links between Chinese gamblers and overseas casionos.
Monday’s actions led to three Crown employees, one of whom is widely believed to be the company’s VIP international team Jason O’Connor, being detained in Shanghai for suspected involvement in gambling crimes. The Chinese government is reported to have warned Crown to clean up its act in 2015, but were not happy with the reforms inacted.
Australian gambling mogul James Packer said earlier today he was seeking regular updates and would ensure Crown would do whatever it could to help its staff.
In a statement he said, “As the major shareholder of Crown Resorts, I am deeply concerned for the welfare of those Crown employees detained in China.
“Crown will do whatever it can to support our employees and their families at this difficult time. Our number one priority is to be able to make contact and to ensure they are all safe.”
Packer’s reassurances have not been enough to prevent the sharpest decline in the company’s share price in its history, however. Nearly AU$1 billion was wiped off Crown’s value in Monday’s trading.