Organizers of the Melbourne Cup, the Victoria Racing Club, are treading lightly as they prepare the first big marketing push into China on the heels of the recent Crown arrests, according to The Sydney Morning Herald.
Sina Weibo, the online social media giant, is the venue through which nearly 20 million Chinese viewers will be able to watch the races. The micro blogging site, which is owned by the SINA Corporation, pays for the rights to broadcast the race.
In order to circumvent the gambling ban in China, Lisa Patroni, the head of international tourism and government for Victoria Racing, said that joint promotion with Crown Hotels for the Melbourne Cup was done so as a fashion event, according to the local news agency. Just like gambling in casinos is illegal in China, so is betting on horse races.
Patroni said, “The Chinese government is conscious of the sorts of money leaving the country, but there is more sensitivity around gaming and casinos,” according to the news agency. She added that the club was “watching” carefully. “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,” explained Patroni.
An increase from last years 5,000, approximately 7,000 Chinese visitors have purchased tickets to this year’s Melbourne Cup.
On the weekend of the 15th, 18 employees of Crown Resorts Ltd were detained by the Chinese authorities. Among those detained were three Australians accused of trying to lure gamblers in China to their gaming venues. Until the reasons for the arrests become clearer, all marketing in China by Crown Hotels will cease. In addition to sponsoring Australia Week in China, Crown Hotels has previously run partnerships with Tourism Victoria, Austrade, and Tourism Australia. Crown has insisted that it only promotes its resorts on the mainland, not its casinos, according to the news agency.
Recently, Crown Resorts indicated that it intends to offload more of its international holdings.