Mr Demetriou left with a parting shot at former Supreme Court judge Patrica Bergin, who found the NSW gambling regulator could not have confidence in him after a “bizarre … unedifying performance” at her inquiry in which he was caught reading notes and then denied having done so.
“I believe the comments directed at me in the report are unfair and unjust and I will defend my reputation at every opportunity,” Mr Demetriou said.
News Corporation reported on Thursday night that Mr Barton had agreed to resign following a meeting with Ms Coonan. Crown did not respond to questions and Mr Barton could not be reached.
However, sources close to the company said Mr Barton had been in discussions with Ms Coonan about his future and expected his resignation would be imminent.
Mr Demetriou was the chairman of Crown Melbourne and had been on the Crown Resorts board since 2015 as an independent director.
However, the Melbourne identity’s independence was called into question during Commissioner Bergin’s 18-month long inquiry into Crown when it uncovered an email he sent majority shareholder James Packer in 2019, telling the billionaire: “I remain committed to serving the best interests of Crown and, most importantly, you.”
Mr Demetriou’s resignation came after Victorian Commission for Gambling and Liquor Regulation CEO Catherine Myers said on Thursday afternoon she would demand he and Mr Barton explain why they should be allowed to be involved with Crown’s flagship Melbourne casino.
That came hours after her NSW counterpart, Independent Liquor & Gaming Authority chair Philip Crawford, said Crown needed to part ways with Mr Barton and the former AFL boss Mr Demetriou if it ever wanted to open its new $2.2 billion casino at Barangaroo.
Former Supreme Court judge Patricia Bergin’s report into Crown released this week found that Mr Barton was “no match for what is needed at the helm of a casino”.
Two representatives of Mr Packer, who own 37 per cent of Crown, resigned from its board and a third ceased acting as a nominee on Wednesday after Commissioner Bergin highlighted the billionaire’s harmful influence over the company’s governance.
Mr Crawford’s strident comments on Thursday were a wake-up call for both men that made their resignations before the weekend more likely, according to one source who requested anonymity to discuss confidential deliberations.
Crown chairman Helen Coonan said on Thursday that she accepted the report’s criticism was warranted and repeated “our unreserved apologies for these shortcomings”. However she did not comment on the future of her CEO or board members.
“We do not underestimate the scale of the problem and appreciate there is a need for ‘root and branch’ change,” she said in a statement. “This change has commenced.”
ILGA chair Mr Crawford said that while he was encouraged by his engagement with Ms Coonan so far, “more people have got to go” from Crown including Mr Barton and Mr Demetriou.
“You can assume we’ll be talking to Ms Coonan about those matters fairly shortly,” he said in an interview on 2GB radio.
“When you read the report there’s a certain obviousness [about what needs to happen].”
Another Crown director, famed adman Harold Mitchell, is under a cloud with the VCGLR also demanding he justify his position after he was found in the Federal Court last year to have breached his directors’ duties while on the board of Tennis Australia. Without naming anyone, Mr Crawford said there was “a question mark” over one other Crown director.
Mr Crawford said there was no guarantee Crown would be able to make itself suitable and open the new casino. But under the deal signed by the NSW government and Crown to open Sydney’s second casino, the regulator was contractually bound to work with Crown to try and make it suitable.
“They haven’t operated in this state yet and they may never,” he said. “They’ve got a lot of work to do.”
Under Victorian gaming laws, associates of a casino must be of “good repute, having regard to character, honesty and integrity” and Ms Myers said demanding an explanation was a mandatory first step in regulatory action. Mr Demetriou is the chair of Crown Melbourne.
The VCGLR has come under fire in the wake of the damning NSW inquiry given most of Crown’s wrongdoing occurred in Melbourne, with calls for the regulator to be split up and the Victorian opposition calling it a “lapdog” to Crown.
Crown was set to open the gaming floors at its new casino in late December but ILGA blocked it from doing so after evidence of money laundering at Crown’s Melbourne and Perth casino emerged from a public inquiry.
Mr Crawford also left the door open to ILGA moving to reduce Mr Packer’s 37 per cent shareholding, saying it was something the regulator’s board would discuss when it meets on Friday.
“The influence has already been diluted by his retreat from the board, that’s a really positive start,” he said.
“The other side of that is sometimes with these shareholder issues that there is a commercial outcome. It’s something we’re going to be looking at.”
The potential for Mr Packer to be found unsuitable to be involved in the Sydney casino has raised speculation he could finally sell his $2.4 billion stake in Crown following several failed attempts to exit the company in recent years.
Commissioner Bergin’s report – released on Tuesday following an explosive 18-month public inquiry – found that Crown had facilitated money laundering at its Melbourne and Perth casinos, partnered with figures linked to organised crime, and disregarded the safety of staff in China before 19 were arrested there in 2016.
The inquiry was triggered by a series of reports by the Sydney Morning Herald, The Age and 60 Minutes, which Mr Crawford said this week had been “totally vindicated”.
Business reporter at The Age and Sydney Morning Herald.