China and Australia have agreed to swap intelligence on money laundering and other financial transgressions as part of a crackdown by Beijing on alleged gambling-related crimes.

“Following the money trail is an essential element” in tackling organised crime, Australian Justice Minister Michael Keenan said in Beijing last week, after the pact was signed with representatives of China’s Anti-Money Laundering Monitoring and Analysis Centre.

The agreement has been under discussion for more than a year and predates the detention last month of 18 employees of Australian casino operator Crown Resorts Ltd.—three of them Australian citizens—as part of what Chinese authorities say is an investigation into gambling-related crimes. A fourth Australian who didn’t work for Crown was also detained.

As part of the clampdown, dubbed Operation Fox Hunt, China has tried to build cooperation with foreign authorities to track laundered money and investment flows

John Schmidt, a former chief executive of Austrac, last year estimated that billions of dollars in illegal foreign cash flows may be winding up in Australia—much of it in the country’s residential and commercial property markets.

China’s Ministry of Public Security said last month the U.S., Canada, Australia and Singapore had all become popular destinations for corrupt officials fleeing the country because of a lack of bilateral extradition treaties.

China’s Anti-Money Laundering Monitoring and Analysis Centre is a unit of the country’s central bank charged with helping Beijing fulfill its commitments to international conventions on illicit capital flows.

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VIP revenue impact will be felt by all operators: CLSA

Brokerage CLSA  (Credit Lyonnais Securities Asia) says it expects to see a fall in Chinese VIP gamers in the Australian market over the 12 months following the arrests of 18 Crown Resorts staff in China.

Last week, the brokerage firm  presented several scenarios of how Australia’s VIP market may play out following the arrests.

“The charges (if any) are unclear but the event is likely to impact VIP revenues for all operators,” said CLSA.

“Less clear is the impact on mass revenues, future projects and other markets (Macau).”

Most likely, Australia’s VIP market would play out in a similar way to that of South Korea after China’s crackdown on VIP promotion last year, said the brokerage.

“Our base case is 35 percent VIP revenue declines for Star Entertainment and SkyCity in FY17, and 50 percent decline for Crown given its direct involvement in this event.”

This would equate to a 17 / 27 / 18 percent decline in VIP revenues for Crown / Star / SkyCity respectively, said the analysts.

It also notes that Star Entertainment has the greatest exposure of Chinese VIP players, while SkyCity is likely to see less impact.

Crown’s exposure potentially extends to its holding in Melco Crown, and the value of future projects skewed to VIP, namely Crown Sydney development at Barangaroo,.


VRC uses fashion to attract Chinese

Meanwhile, the Victoria Racing Club is treading carefully following the Crown arrests in China.

The Spring racing carnival, including the Melbourne Cup, was made available to nearly 20 million Chinese viewers through Chinese online social media giant, Sina Weibo, who paid for the rights.

Betting on horse races is illegal in China.

Victoria Racing Club’s head of international tourism and government, Lisa Patroni, said to avoid the gambling ban the campaign promoted the Melbourne Cup as a fashion event.

“The Chinese government is conscious of the sorts of money leaving the country, but there is more sensitivity around gaming and casinos,” said Ms Patroni, adding that the club was “watching”.

“We’ve always been very careful in our positioning. That’s why we dialled up the fashion. The government will shut your website and memes down. We don’t talk gambling at all, but softly educate them on racing, and dial up the history and heritage of the Melbourne Cup.”

Around 7000 Chinese visitors bought tickets to the Melbourne Cup this year, up from 5,000 in 2015.