Crown Resorts shares fall again as its CEO speaks on the arrest of his staff in China

A file photo of James Packer at the official opening of the casino hotel Crown Macau in 2007. MN Chan/Getty Images

Crown Resorts CEO Rowen Craigie says the welfare and safety of the 18 staff detained in China are his immediate concern.

“Our number one priority is to provide them and their families with all the support we can at this difficult time,” he told the company’s annual general meeting in Perth today.

Crown shares were falling again today. A short time ago, they were down 2.4% to $10.73, adding to a 3% drop yesterday and 13.9% on Monday. They have shed 17% since Friday’s close.

Analysts say the arrest of 18 employees could be a crackdown on casino companies marketing in mainland China and that this could impact the flow of high rollers to Australia.

In 2016, VIP program turnover in Australia was down 8% to of $65.1 billion. And VIP trade has been softer since the start of July to the end of last week, according to reports given to the AGM today.

“Given the current lack of information available, it is not possible for anyone to be able to provide any informed commentary on these detentions,” Craigie says.

“Likewise, any assessment at this time as to any material impact on our business is both premature and speculative.”

Crown Resorts, whose largest shareholder is billionaire James Packer, is in close contact with Australia’s Department of Foreign Affairs as well as legal representatives in China to obtain more information, understand the reasons for the detention and resolve the situation.

“While I know we all have many questions, we must be very cautious and measured in our commentary at this sensitive time in the process,” Craigie says.

Authorities in China have given Australian consular officials access to the three Australian citizens among the 18 employees.