Chinese authorities have detained 18 employees of casino operator Crown Resorts Ltd., including Australian citizens, for suspected gambling crimes.
“According to the authorities overseeing the case, some Australian nationals have been detained by the Chinese authorities on suspicion of gambling crimes,” the Wall Street Journal quoted a Chinese foreign ministry spokesperson as saying in an emailed statement on Sunday.
“The case is currently under investigation.”
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.
It is illegal to advertise casinos in mainland China, but casino operators such as Crown can promote tourism to the resorts where the casinos are located, the Journal said.
A spokesperson for Crown said on Sunday the company had not been able to speak with the employees, but it was working with Australian authorities to confirm the welfare of the group.
“Crown believes that Jason O’Connor, the head of Crown’s VIP International team, is one of 18 employees being questioned by Chinese authorities,” the company spokesperson said.
Crown’s operations in Macau have been hurt by the Chinese government’s crackdown on graft and lavish lifestyles, the Journal said.
But the company’s casinos in Australia have been benefiting from an uptick in tourist arrivals from China.
Crown reported a net profit of A$948.8 million (US$722.7 million) in the first half of the year, compared with A$385 million a year earlier.
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