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September 20, 2014

Bellagio bandit gets $1.5 million in gambling chips

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Surveillance video images of an armed man who police believe robbed the Bellagio and Suncoast casinos. The Suncoast robbery is at the left and right, and Bellagio is in the center.

Updated Tuesday, Dec. 14, 2010 | 2:09 p.m.

Robber Flees the Bellagio

Metro News Conference

Bellagio/Suncoast robberies

Surveillance video image of an armed man who robbed the Suncoast casino on Dec. 9. Police said he's also suspected in the robbery of the Bellagio on Dec. 14. Launch slideshow »
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The Bellagio hotel-casino on the Las Vegas Strip.

Metro Police are looking for an armed man who made off on a motorcycle with about $1.5 million worth of gambling chips Tuesday morning from the Bellagio hotel-casino on the Las Vegas Strip.

Police Lt. Clint Nichols said the man parked his motorcycle outside the casino's north valet, then walked directly to a craps table at about 3:50 a.m. He pulled a gun, demanded chips and fled the casino.

He was last seen wearing a full-face helmet as he fled westbound on Flamingo Road on a black sport-style motorcycle. No shots were fired and no one was injured.

Nichols called the robbery "about as quick as you can do it" — about two to three minutes from entry to exit. He estimated the chips were worth about $1.5 million, with chip amounts ranging from as low as $100 to as high as $25,000.

The culprit, however, might find it hard to redeem his loot because the chips are only good at the Bellagio. Gordon Absher, spokesman for Bellagio owner MGM Resorts International, declined to discuss the investigation. But he noted that casino chips aren't the same as cash.

"At some point they have to be redeemed," Absher said.

Chips are unique to casino properties and are not interchangeable. Absher wouldn't say if MGM Resorts properties are among Las Vegas casinos that embed radio frequency devices in its chips.

Detectives were reviewing surveillance video and camera images. Authorities said about 15 casino patrons were in the area when police arrived to investigate the robbery.

Police later released an 11-second video showing a man in a jumpsuit running through a casino entry lobby with a gun in his right hand. At one point, he turned and pointed the weapon behind him.

The robber was described as white and about 5-feet-10-inches tall, about 220 pounds and wearing a white motorcycle helmet with multiple stripes and a black jacket, black pants and black gloves.

Investigators said the suspect is likely the same man who robbed the Suncoast casino, 9090 Alta Drive, on Dec. 9. In that robbery, the man robbed a cashier's cage near where a poker tournament was going on.

Police said the Suncoast robber got away with just less than $20,000.

The Bellagio robbery marks the 10th casino robbery so far this year in Metro's jurisdiction. Last year, there were nine casino robberies, police said.

"The number is still relatively low. This is not an epidemic that we see valleywide," Nichols said. "In most events, we actively pursue those folks that commit those robberies and do a fairly decent job apprehending them, and hopefully this will hold true."

Police said the casino industry has safeguards in place that would make it difficult — but not impossible — for the suspect to cash in on the chips' worth.

Police believe the man committed the robbery alone, but detectives are exploring whether others could be involved.

"There's typically a layoff guy that calls in and says when and where to conduct a robbery," Nichols said. "That's an assumption we're working on in this event. We're not sure that's the case."

Anyone with information about the cases is asked to contact Crime Stoppers at (702) 385-5555 or www.crimestoppersofnv.com.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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  1. Isn't that ironic..a customer robbing a casino.

  2. Other news outlets are reporting he took 1.5 million in chips.

  3. Will be easy for the suspect to unload the chips?

  4. I would assume that the minute he left that casino those chips became worthless.

  5. Perfect Proof that CRIME DOES NOT PAY! This guy doesn't know that chips have microchips? And that when you have a REALLY large amount one, they question the HELL out of you and ask for your players club card etc. He is so screwed. He'd better get the hell outta dodge and mail the chips back to the Bellagio. He's still going down if he gets caught though!

  6. dipstick

    Judging from your "Pahrump" comment - you must have heard about the bust on I-80 here in Illinois!!!

  7. Aaronboy

    For goodness sakes - the idiot stole money!! He didn't kill a dozen people!!! And if it is true it was just chips.....WTF is he going to do with those???

  8. Was the guy even armed? With all those cameras they should be able to identify the helmet/motorcycle and hopefully find the guy. It would seem so easy to hide on The Strip, though. Not going to affect me when I am out there next, crime happens everywhere.

  9. Why would the chips not be good?

    Even if he cashed them, or gambled with them over time, it sounds easy to me.

    Over time, he may even be able to turn them into further winnings.

    Sweet. Criminal and daring, but sweet.

  10. TomD1228, if he went to high limit bacarrat, he could garner chips with a worth of at least $25,000 each. A rack (100) of $25,00 chips would net 2.5 million.

  11. Why would the chips not be good?

    Because as far as I am aware the casinos have at least 2 sets of chips. In the event of a robbery the chip set stolen gets switched out for a slightly different design or colour scheme.

  12. This guy is going to take a chance and try and cash in $1000 dollar chips?

    Doubtful. I find it hard to believe he can cash in these chips without bringing attention to himself. If he's not a player or has no players card and there is no record of his gambling at the Bellagio for high stakes..he can't just walk in with big money chips and cash them in. They will be on him like white on rice.

  13. How about this theory, It was an inside job and the robber and his partners will use mules to launder the chips back into the casino. On a real busy night, They will buy new chips and then color up the stolen chips at the tables. To do this you have to have a Brass B@lls. If and when he is apprehended it will be by snitches who drop him to the thugs in asset management at the Bellagio.

  14. I read earlier that when someone heisted a bunch of chips during a Tyson fight a while back, all of the chips were someone made worthless. Can anyone confirm/fill in details?

    If they are worthless, I would imagine that it isn't theft of money, per se...he may as well of stolen fifty pounds worth of plastic forks from the kitchen. Yes?

  15. The small denom ships could be spent but for large denom chips where is he going to cash or play them? Evey casino is going to know what denom chips were taken and will call before doing anything if someone tries to cash or play them. They do track who has big denom chips so a nobody wouldn't be able to cash them.

  16. UKVegaslover.....Dont' know where you heard they have different chips ?? I heard he took them from a crap game. And they wont be good because they dont cash in $25,000 & $100,000 chips without ID or tracked play

  17. FYI, there checques, not chips. Chips have no denomination. And they have value if you know how to handle them, except the big denominations (25K). They know who has them and if your name isn't associated with them then they do not have to honor them due to the fact that there 'non transferable' and not considered currency

  18. What is he going to do with them? Casinos routinely don't cash in chips that are brought in from outside if they suspect they were acquired in trade (it's state law). It should be easy enough for the cops to put their ear to the ground and find a fink if he spreads them around. If he tries to redeem them in bulk, he's screwed. What an idiot - get the cash next time! :)

  19. Would it be possible for the guy to sell the high denom chips to high-rollers at a discount?

  20. Another idiot adding costs for the rest of us.

  21. the picture on this article the man is wearing different clothes, helmet, shoes & the backpack dissapears, than the video shown.

    did he change clothes? or is that picture from the suncoast robbery?

  22. it would be interesting to know if bellagio chips are integrated with rfid technology...

  23. One commenter says: "The picture on this article the man is wearing different clothes, helmet, shoes & the backpack disappears, than the video shown. Did he change clothes?"

    I had a similar question: When did he put on the mask? Did security see him going in, or just coming out of the casino?

    As the unemployment rate continues to soar, I fear that more stupid people will decide to rob casino tables or cages, putting customers at risk when the robbers try a show of force, or panic, while in possession of firearms.

  24. Although it was well planned and executed, I will put my bets on the cops finding him, within the next 14 days. I am 220, white and about 5'11" but I wouldn't rob a casino for chips. I will print a t-shirt for him; "I robbed the Belagio for 2m, and I all I got was 20 years..."
    It's not like DB Cooper who bailed with mega cash,
    I am not saying he wasn't daring. I am saying I believe the chips are going to be hard to pass. 2 weeks, any takers? I have my bus pass and fun book against your dime

  25. He may beat this thing if he's smart. I think he's able to pass these chips not the big denominations, too risky, his total haul depends on how many 100 and below chips he got, even 500 would in my mind be too risky to pass for fear of them being embedded with rf devices. There are a lot of chips outstanding in the hands of the public that for a variety of reasons don't get exchanged right away. Some people for a variety of reasons don't present any players club card. I happen to know of an individual who made some big scores over the years playing blackjack. He did not cash in his chips right away, had denoms up to 500, and had no trouble redeeming them slowly. I asume the dude had a stolen or otherwise untraceable tag on the motorcycle. If he stashes the bike or better yet disassembles it and destroys it and the helmet, cashes in slowly, doesn't tell anybody if he was solo on this. Also, better not try to fence the large denomination chips, either. I don't condone what he did. I don't admire him. What he did was wrong and was really dangerous someone could have gotten killed. It will be interesting to see what happens from here.

  26. I have to say, the guy had testicular fortitude like you can't believe to pull a stunt like this.

  27. Metro is putting out mis information on hate talk radio that the chips are worthless, don't believe it.

    These casinos = the banks of the 30's

    brave, bold and beautiful....that you JOHN DILENGER in a helmet...I notice Metro was pulling over motorcycle people this morning... I'm sure he parked it.

    This is an inside job by an ex Metro or current Metro or a Casino guy....the chip's tag can be squawked...and they will be un identifieable.

    The insurance companies will pay under the table to stop the chips, just like in Oceans 11...hah ha ha

    in fact, it was more than like likely organized by the Casino to get some insurance money...Look at the fraud of the Harvey's Tahoe Wagon Wheel....

    it is a shake down by the casino's against the insurance companies......

  28. Wow, mred. People say I am cynical.

    If what you say is true, I can hear the movie script being typed already.

  29. ....wow that easy....how does he use the chips that he just stole....and why is he doing this...I mean cash I could understand but chips....strange...doing it to see if he can get away with it because he will never be able to cash those chips in....

  30. Chunky says:

    At least he wore a proper helmet and jacket for the ride! ATGATT!

    Chunky wishes the "authorities" such that they are would go after all the corporate thieves who have robbed us blind with their Excel spreadsheets!

    That's what Chunky thinks!

  31. I seriously doubt that it's a "recently unemployed, desparate victim of the economy", as some have suggested. While the great majority of unemployed would never suddenly resort to robbery, the occasional one who does is probably after the quick buck to spend immediately, not difficult or impossible to negotiate casino chips. More likely to see that type knock over a liquor store, restaurant etc. for quick cash, not rob a high security casino.
    Who knows what this guy was thinking. I imagine the high denomination chips are extremely limited in circulation and fairly well tracked by the casino. Maybe it's a training mission for a more daring type of robbery for large amounts of cash, who knows? He will likely be caught in short order.

  32. He sells the chips to other people at a discount.

    I saw him headed West to Pahrump...

  33. Apparently he's not aware he's an imbecile. Casino's don't miss a thing and they know what was taken, they know the amounts and unless this dummy returns they are useless anywhere else. If he returns to use any chip taken,...his casino fun will be short lived,...they'll have his ass in the security office with Metro on the way faster than he can say WTF? Forrest Gump once said, stupid is as stupid does.

  34. Kevin, I am not so sure. Agree they, the Bellagio, knows what was taken. Also, probably, that they can't be used somewhere else. As an accountant I have some familiarity with inventory electronic/computerized/wireless internal control systems, but not in the casino industry. Further I have no knowledge of the more sophisticated features of casino security. Having said that, I know the technology exists or can be adapted to track each and every individual chip of any denomination. Likewise, a suspect chip could be identified by a computer identifying it as suspect wirelessly by programming it to identify the chip if it was attempted to be played or the absence of required information if it was tampered with. How far along or if casinos are in the process of moving toward such a system, of that I am not aware. Perhaps, this heist will accelerate the push in this direction of chip tracking. I am not convinced that if this guy comes back at some point to the Bellagio and attempts to use a lower denomination chip that he will be identified and nabbed as a result.

  35. I have been told by veteran Vegas visitors that go to one of the tourist Catholic churches on the Strip or just off the Strip while in town and said gamblers sometimes put chips in the collection trays and the priests will go around to the different casinos to cash them in for the church. If true, then the chips that were stolen could be split up among several people and cashed in at different times. Also, unrelated, is there usually a max amount that could be printed on the cashout slips for slot winnings?

  36. My question about this whole thing is not if he can redeem the stolen chips, but where the heck was security. I can't believe the surveillance video at Bellagio is of such a poor quality. The grainy image is little to go on. You would think an establishment of that caliber would have much better technology. There also should have been guards by entrances and exits, or nearby. I remember the old days, when surly looking heavily armed guards would have loved to be present during that robbery. They would have shot first and asked questions later. I miss those days.

  37. If the chips are RFID'd: Each one is a unique id. So turning off the RFID on each chip requires opening the chip. Try doing that to hundreds of chips. Plus, they would know that a chip is from the heist because it does not return an id.

    If they change the RFID the chances of using a duplicate number or a number higher than the Bellagio's chip is high. So they would know they have a dupe chip or a faked RFID chip.

    Almost worthless.

  38. JerseyPaulie, you make a good point. If those responsible at the Bellagio can't even get the basics of security right, adequate staffing of guards, sufficient quality of surveillance video, etc. no amount of high technology is going to help them. It may have been a budgetary thing, reducing staffing of guards at particular times of the day, without considering the risks involved. Almost like they checked their brains at the door. You know some people are freshing up their resumes over at the Bellagio in preparation for their imminent departure. I think the public is focused not on the more mundane boring aspects of routine casino security, but the ultimate question of will he get away with it and to what extent if any he will cash in his (actually the Bellagio's) chips.

  39. Correction, sp. that should be "freshening".

  40. Anything that needs to be done to a RF embedded chip could be done to it without mechanically opening it up with the right equipment and necessary codes. Of course only those with a need to know at the casino and/or chip manufacturer/provider know the capabilities of whatever is/was in use. Anything else is sheer speculation.

  41. Interesting article cinnamongirl, but it still doesn't answer some important questions, what about the perfectly valid chips that were and are outstanding prior to the heist? How long is a series of chips in use currently good for? Until an event like this and the casino cancels all the chips outstanding? What if I have $1000 in chips from a previous visit and attempt to cash/use them etc., what is the Bellagio going to say, that they are not valid, I don't think so (unless they are really old and violate some written policy, I can't see it). Secondly, it might very well be that the $100 and below chips did not contain the RFID. I bet all the casinos go to that now, down to probably 50 if not 25. Lastly the individual quoted in the article has a bias/vested interest in putting out the notion that the chips can't be used because his company relies on the casino industry for its revenue. The casinos wouldn't want a contrary opinion put out for public consumption. I'm still not convinced.

  42. Ron, the article did not say that in this case every chip had the RFID tag. John Kendall, the president of CHIPCO quoted in the article said,"I know the people at Bellagio well and have spoken to them" and "generally chips with a face value of $100 and above are inlaid with RFID". He also said, "it is not unheard of to have a chip down to $25 inlaid with RFID". IN NO WAY DOES THIS GUY CONFIRM THAT THE CHIPS IN THIS HEIST IN DENOMINATIONS OF $100 OR LESS WERE IN FACT INLAID WITH RFID. He also mentions that every chip in the house would be replaced with a secondary set. Doesn't sound to me like what you assert is true, that each and every chip that the individual got in the heist in question had a RFID tag (it's license plate, if you will) and it was selectively cancelled. There simply is no conclusive proof that each of these chips had a RFID. Mr. Kendall does not confirm it, just says it's possible. I suspected from the start that the higher denominations $500 and above were so equipped and are now worthless. I am still unconvinced that is the case with the lower denominations.

  43. This was well-planned out by this person (or persons). He knew exactly when to hit the tables - ie very early in the morning when most tourists are in their rooms, the 2 bit hookers are still trying to hook up but the expensive ones are already finished for the night, the cleaning people are starting to get ready to clean. The security and table personnel were in other worlds because the casino is quiet at this time and were not paying attention. They got caught with their pants down.

    And....yes you can cash in chips that are old (I had a $25 Harrah's chip that I carried in my wallet that was about 5 years old - I finally cashed it in because I needed the money!!) This guy may just keep these chips (the lower denomination ones atleast) in a suitcase in his closet for several years and then start cashing them in. Those high denom ones may end up in the Salvation Army bucket or some cash-strapped entity that helps the poor may find a plastic Walmart bag filled with those high denom chips on their doorstep one morning. Even if the B doesn't give teh entity the $25,000, a reward will certainly be forthcoming.

  44. Sorry - should have proofed my post:

    Mean to say "Even if the B doesn't give the entity the $25,000 chip...."

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