China arrests South Koreans for luring Chinese to casinos

BEIJING - Chinese police have arrested 13 South Korean casino managers and several Chinese agents suspected of luring people from China to gamble in South Korea, state television reported.

China's citizens, among the world's most prolific gamblers, often travel to the Chinese territory of Macau, South Korea, the Philippines or Australia to bet as gambling is illegal in mainland China, except for heavily regulated state-sanctioned lotteries.

In a report late on Tuesday, Chinese state television said police launched a probe in June into "criminal gangs" from five South Korean casinos, who "enticed" Chinese with free tours, free hotels and sexual services.

Casinos are not allowed to legally advertise in mainland China, but operators have skirted around the issue by promoting the resorts where the casinos are located.

A South Korean tourism ministry official said the 13 Koreans are employees of Grand Korea Leisure Co Ltd (GKL) and Paradise Co Ltd, and that it was unclear if they had been charged.

A Paradise spokesman said the company's representatives were not involved in providing the services described in the media report, but confirmed that 6 of the 13 detained Koreans were its employees.

A GKL spokesman could not be immediately reached for comment.

Chinese President Xi Jinping's protracted crackdown on corruption and conspicuous spending has kept wealthy Chinese gamblers away from Macau, the world's biggest gambling hub, where gaming revenues last year fell for the first time since casinos were liberalised in 2001.

At the same time, casino operators around Asia have been aggressively courting Chinese gamblers, with many relying on Macau or mainland junkets to lure wealthy clients.

South Korea has 17 casinos and 14 casino operators, three of which are Paradise or affiliates.