Reporter Who Exposed Crown Resorts Wins ‘Journalist of the Year’ At Crown Melbourne

Posted on: March 29, 2021, 10:49h. 

Last updated on: March 29, 2021, 11:04h.

A reporter who exposed Crown Resorts’ ties with triad junket operators has been named Journalist of the Year at the Melbourne Press Club’s Quill Awards. The venue? The Crown Melbourne Palladium event space.

Nick McKenzie
Nick McKenzie at the Melbourne Press Club’s Quill Awards at Crown Melbourne, where he was named “Journalist of the Year” on Friday night. (Image: Twitter)

Nick McKenzie’s reportage has heaped nothing but misery on Australia’s biggest casino operator over the past 18 months.

McKenzie and colleagues pored over thousands of leaked internal Crown documents in stories for The Age and current affairs show 60 Minutes. That ultimately unleashed a regulatory wrecking ball on the company’s operations.

Among their conclusions was that Crown had allowed criminal gangs to launder drug money through its casinos in Australia. They also accused the company of exploiting weaknesses in the Australian visa system to fast-track known criminals into the country to gamble.

McKenzie described a “lust for profits-proven arrogant culture where almost anything, including courting people with ties to the criminal underworld, was not only allowed, but encouraged.”

‘Unbalanced’ Reporting

Following the reports, Crown took out a full-page advertisement in a rival newspaper claiming this “unbalanced and sensationalized reporting is based on unsubstantiated allegations, exaggerations, unsupported connections, and outright falsehoods.”

On Friday, the Melbourne Press Club disagreed with Crown’s assessment of McKenzie’s talents. And a public inquiry examining Crown’s suitability for licensing in the state of New South Wales largely backed up McKenzie and his colleagues’ findings.

A 700-plus page report compiled by former NSW Supreme Court judge Patricia Bergin found that Crown had been “facilitating money laundering, exposing staff to the risk of detention in a foreign jurisdiction, and pursuing commercial relationships with individuals with connections to Triads and organized crime groups.”

As a result, Crown lost its license in New South Wales. This derailed its plans for the Crown Sydney, a $1.7 billion high-end casino, hotel, and apartment complex that opened in December, minus its casino.

The bombshell Bergin report has triggered similar inquiries in the other two jurisdictions in which Crown operates, Western Australia and Victoria.

Irony Alert

Last week, the Victoria inquiry kicked off, examining the company’s suitability for licensing in Melbourne, home of Crown’s flagship property.

The irony was not lost on McKenzie as he cradled his shiny award in that property’s event space. He suggested taking the A$10,000 cash prize in a plastic bag down to the cashiers to convert into gambling chips.

Coincidentally, A$10,000 is the threshold at which cash transactions must be reported by a casino operator to AUSTRAC. That’s the Australian financial crimes unit that is currently investigating Crown for money laundering violations.

Had McKenzie not been joking, and had Crown converted those chips without doing the paperwork, he might have had another story on his hands.