Crown Resorts

Australian officials have met with the three Crown Resorts employees detained in China since mid-October, Australia’s foreign minister Julie Bishop said, after the trio were formally arrested on suspicion of gambling offences.

Australian officials visited their three nationals – part of a larger group of 17 Crown employees in detention – in Shanghai, Bishop told reporters in Canberra on Wednesday.

“We were able to provide advice and support. We provided messages from their families. There is an anti-corruption agenda of President Xi Jinping and gambling is one of the areas of interest, so we are subject to the laws of China.”

The consular visit came a day after Australian authorities confirmed that three nationals, including Crown’s head of international VIP gambling, Jason O’Connor, were arrested.

Eighteen Crown employees were initially detained, but one has since been released, Crown said last week. The fate of the other 14 is not clear.

The detention of the Crown employees has sparked concern about a wider crackdown on gambling in China.

Analysts have linked the detentions – which sent Crown’s share price tumbling – to Chinese laws banning casinos from advertising or promoting gambling in the Chinese mainland, for instance by offering credit to high-spending clients.

In October, Crown said “less than half” its international VIP revenue, or about 12% of total revenue, came from Chinese high-rollers.

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