Crown chief executive Ken Barton reportedly considers resignation

By Noah Taylor Updated
Royal commission hears that Crown was reluctant to implement tighter money laundering controls

Following a bombshell report into Crown Resorts’ unsuitability to hold a casino licence at its new venue at Barangaroo, there are reports that Crown’s chief executive Ken Barton is going to resign.

ABC News reports that Mr Barton has signalled his intention to resign during a meeting with Crown chair Helen Coonan on Thursday.

It follows the resignation on Wednesday of two board members, Michael Johnston and Guy Jalland.

Crown board member and former AFL chief executive Andrew Demetriou is also facing increasing pressure to resign.

Mr Barton’s decision to step down comes after increasing pressure from gambling regulators following a report critical of Crown.

An extensive investigation by the NSW gaming regulator found Crown was unsuitable to operate a licence for its new Sydney casino in its current form.

Its report outlined a litany of Crown failures, including money laundering and said the company would have to undertake extensive cultural change in order to hold a licence to operate the new Barangaroo casino in future.

NSW Independent Liquor and Gaming Authority chair Philip Crawford this morning said the pair must resign or be sacked if Crown wanted to hold the licence to operate Sydney’s second casino.

As the crisis deepened, the Victorian Commission for Gambling and Liquor Regulation said Mr Barton and Mr Demetriou would be asked to explain why they should remain associates of Crown Melbourne in Southbank.

VCGLR chief executive Catherine Myers said the commission had a number of investigations ongoing into Crown, but the first step was to demand an exclamation for the findings of the Bergin report.

“Under the Victorian Casino Control Act, associates of the casino operator must be of good repute, having regard to character, honesty and integrity,” she said.

The resignations of Michael Johnston and Guy Jalland were welcomed by the NSW ILGA.

Crown suspends junket operations until mid-next year

Crown Resorts will suspend all activity with junket partners until June 30, 2021. 

GGR Asia reported in September that the casino operator said the move was part of its review on “compliance and governance processes”.

Crown Resorts’ flagship property, Crown Melbourne, is currently closed due to the coronavirus pandemic.

The announcement of the pause comes as a public inquiry ordered by the New South Wales Independent Liquor and Gaming Authority investigates the relationship between Crown Resorts and junket operators in bringing players from overseas, and how much oversight the casino firm was exercising over that business segment.

The inquiry has been considering Crown Resorts’ suitability for a casino licence at a new property it has been developing in Sydney.

An original focus of the inquiry had been the suitability of Macau operator Melco Resorts, led by Lawrence Ho, a son of the late former Macau casino kingpin Stanley Ho, to be an investor in Crown Resorts.

The inquiry has since shifted its focus since Melco Resorts sold off its interests in the Australian firm.

Last Thursday, Naomi Sharp, a lawyer assisting the inquiry, had questioned what practical impact a suspension of Crown Resorts’ ties with outside junkets would have, while Australia’s borders are effectively closed to inbound travellers from overseas.

“With Crown Melbourne closed, which is our main casino, there’s been no prospect of any significant junket activity,” Crown Resorts’ chief executive Ken Barton said.

Mr Barton also told the inquiry that his company was implementing recommendations made by professional services firm Deloitte Touche Tohmatsu.

Crown Resorts had asked the consultant to prepare a report on an approval process for its external junkets.

“The anti-money laundering team or the financial crimes team will be the predominant source of review of the approval or continuation of a relationship with a junket. I will be having oversight, but the financial crimes team reports through to the board,” Mr Barton stated.

“Ultimately, it will be the head of financial crimes who will decide whether we commence or continue a relationship with a junket,” he added.

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