(Yicai Global) Oct. 17-- Amid a crackdown on gambling, Chinese authorities have detained 18 workers from Australian company Crown Resorts Ltd. [ASE:CWN], including a vice president, the New York Times reports.
Crown Resorts -- which runs casinos in Perth and Melbourne in Australia, and also London, Macau and Manila -- said Monday it was out of contact with the employees and unaware of the reasons for their arrest.
Mr. Jason O'Connor, vice president of VIP international operations, was one detainee. Local media report that his job was to tout Crown's Australian resorts to rich Chinese gamblers. One of Australia's largest wagering companies, Crown's Melbourne casino is the nation's largest.
Canberra has confirmed that several Crown employees -- including three Australian nationals – were taken into custody on the night of Oct. 13-14 in Beijing, Shanghai and other cities. Per a consular treaty, Chinese authorities have three days to notify Australian officials of the detentions. The Australian side thus expects such a notice today. Crown Resorts is collaborating with the Australian government to contact the prisoners.
The arrests appeared connected to restrictions on gambling promotion in China. These ban operators from advertising, except in cities where casinos and tourist attractions are located. Local media quoted China's foreign affairs ministry as saying the arrests were "for suspected involvement in gambling crimes." The case is still under investigation. Chinese officials took 13 South Korean nationals into custody last year on similar charges.
At least one-third of Crown's revenue derives from overseas visitors, many Chinese. Crown's resorts feature glitzy restaurants and shops and luxury lodgings. The Melbourne-based company is listed on the Australian Stock Exchange. Australian billionaire James Packer is a part owner. Crown also owns equity in Melcro Crown Entertainment, which has interests in various casinos in Macau, the world's largest gambling Mecca, with revenue of around five times that of Las Vegas, Nevada, USA.