Crown CEO Pressured to Quit After Scathing Casino Report

Crown Resorts Ltd. Chief Executive Officer Ken Barton faces mounting pressure from the gaming regulator to quit after a scathing report found the Australian casino operator facilitated money laundering and isn’t fit to hold a license in Sydney.

A damming inquiry for the gaming watchdog in New South Wales state on Tuesday recommended an overhaul of Crown after finding risk-management, governance and cultural failings. Both board nominees of Crown’s biggest shareholder, James Packer, quit on Wednesday.

Barton is understood to have agreed to resign following a meeting Thursday with Crown Chairman Helen Coonan, the Australian newspaper reported, without saying where it got the information.

Philip Crawford, chair of the Independent Liquor and Gaming Authority, was asked on local radio on Thursday if Barton and Crown director Andrew Demetriou should also resign. Crawford replied: “When you read the report, there’s a certain obviousness about what you say. More people have got to go.”

The 751-page report by former judge Patricia Bergin recommended a management and corporate restructure before Crown could open its A$2.2 billion ($1.7 billion) Sydney casino, including possible ownership caps on shareholders such as Packer.

Crown shares closed up 2.5% on Thursday after a 3.4% decline on Wednesday.

Coonan on Thursday offered “unreserved apologies” for the company’s shortcomings.

“We do not underestimate the scale of the problem and appreciate there is a need for ‘root and branch’ change,” Coonan said in a statement. She made no mention of Barton or Demetriou, who were both singled out for criticism in Bergin’s report.

Speaking on local radio, Crawford said the regulator will be discussing the position of Barton and others at Crown “fairly shortly.” The watchdog is due to formally consider Bergin’s report on Friday.

Crawford also flagged potential regulatory action at Crown’s other casinos in Australia in light of the findings. Changes to the way Crown operates in Melbourne and Perth are “inevitable,” Crawford said.

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