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Bellagio nixing $25,000 chip after heist

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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 Wednesday, Dec. 29, 2010 | 5:08 p.m.

Robber Flees the Bellagio

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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 »

Las Vegas casino bosses are serving notice to the bandit who made off with $1.5 million in chips from the Bellagio: Try to redeem those worth $25,000 soon or they'll become worthless.

Bellagio owner MGM Resorts International is giving public notice that it's discontinuing its standard chip valued at $25,000 and calling for all gamblers holding the chips to redeem them by April 22.

After that, gambling regulators say each red chip with a gray inlay won't be worth more than the plastic it's cast from.

"The bottom line is that they're not money," said David Salas, deputy enforcement chief for the Nevada Gaming Control Board.

MGM Resorts first posted notice of the redemption last week in the classifieds of the Las Vegas Review-Journal newspaper. That's one week after a robber wearing a motorcycle helmet held up a craps table at gunpoint and made off with a bag of chips of varying denominations.

Police and casino officials have been working since the Dec. 14 heist to try to locate the bandit and keep watch on anyone trying to cash in the chips, which ranged in denomination from $100 to $25,000.

A police spokeswoman said Wednesday there have been no significant developments in the case since then.

MGM Resorts spokesman Alan Feldman told The Associated Press the chips were switched out at the tables within an hour of the robbery, and the Bellagio immediately filed to discontinue the chips.

Feldman said the move was designed to avoid inconveniencing players using the high value chips. He said he did not know how many chips existed and were uncashed.

"Obviously, anyone walking with one of the old series is going to be subject to a certain amount of questioning as to how they obtained them — assuming it isn't someone we know," Feldman told the AP. "It's pretty unusual for someone we don't know to come strolling up with a handful of $25,000 chips."

Discontinuing chips — though done in this case because of the robbery — is not uncommon for Las Vegas casinos, even at high denominations, Salas said.

Commemorative chips to mark a noteworthy prizefight for example, often have a finite circulation. On Wednesday, the Silver Nugget Casino in North Las Vegas posted notice it planned to discontinue chips with the Mahoney's Silver Nugget logo.

State laws require casino operators to serve notice, file a plan with regulators and give gamblers a reasonable amount of time to cash in any chips they're holding — in this case four months.

The move may be moot given other casino safeguards designed to track patrons who cash high-value chips, but will help the casino by lessening the number of chips outside its possession.

"If they have people that they know are players redeem the ones that they know they have, pretty much it's process of elimination — you're left with people who aren't supposed to have the chips," said David Schwartz, a former casino security guard and director of the Center for Gaming Research at UNLV.

It's not immediately clear how many of the chips that were stolen were $25,000 chips, though at most it would be 48.

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  1. why so long? April 22nd. You'd think even if you lived out of town, the cost of a short notice plane ticket would be worth it to cash in that $25K chip you've been holding on to.

  2. I look in my pockets and could not find one

    Oh well happy new years all.

  3. This was the only logical move to make on MGM Resorts part. Making $1,200,000 worthless nominates the castrated biker nut for both The World's Most Stupid Criminals and America's Dumbest Criminals.

  4. They put out a lot of propaganda that the chips stolen couldn't be successfully redeemed, so why do this now? I thought they were worthless. Maybe they could be redeemed. What data was on the rfid chip is known to who took them.

    They probably make an "Oceans 11" style movie about this. Vegas has glorified criminals since its beginning, now people get their back up over this guy.

  5. I can't imagine there are too many $25k chips in "circulation". I'd also imagine that there is some sort of tracking of who gets them. I can go up to the window and buy a stack of $1 or $5 chips without any question. I imagine if I bought even one $25k chip, they might need more info from me before turning it over. The cashier would probably need a manager to "override" the transaction, just like if you withdraw a large amount of cash from a bank. It's doubtful that more than a handful (outside of the "hot" chips) are out there in the hands of individuals.
    mred and I will be in tomorrow to cash in all of our loose $25k chips tomorrow! Seriously, I think I have maybe $25 in $1 chips in my possession, and most are from places like Stardust, Sands, Binion's Hoeseshoe, etc., which are all "worthless" other than value as a collector's item. And a $5 Toby Keith chip from Harrahs.

  6. Ok lets get a little entertaining shall we. Here's what I would do had I had the audacity to pull this off knowing now that the chips are worthless I would have some fun sorta like the guy who started the Bigfoot hoax I would wait maybe a year or less then I would break into the Mob museum and hide the chips in plain sight like in the rack of some antique gambling table or in the hand of some mobsters wax figure. It could be there for years before someone would discover that it didn't belong in the display. I just think that would add to the mystery what would any of you think.

  7. A NEW 25,000 dollar chip?!!!

    Does this invalidate the old $25,000 chips?

    Damn! I just got a really good price on some $25,000 Bellagio chips, too!

    And the guy had a really honest face, too.

    I should have sensed something wrong, when he peeled out so fast...on his motorcycle. Damn!

  8. This is a very interesting development. I had my doubts initially about whether these chips indeed were worthless due to deactivation of some rfid feature or ability to track each chip by serial number, at least the 25K chips. This action and the failure to swap out all the chips in the casino after the heist, which was allegedly going to happen, just doesn't jibe with the notion that the chips are worthless. But on the other hand perhaps this is way to force the robber's hand. I would assume he would not be stupid enough to bring in the 25k chips himself. It does beg the question, what if he sells them at a discount to some third party and they bring them in for redemption. What's the Bellagio going to do, say no, we won't redeem them. They should be able to identify the stolen chips, at least I would hope so if they are brought in, but I'm now even wondering about that. Even if subjected to intense questioning and as a result the third party gives up the robber, if the robber takes precautions he may still elude capture. This situation gets more and more curious all the time.

  9. it only gets difficult once a high roller is shuffling a few additional of these chips among his table stake and starts betting. cashing them in at the cage is like Mission Impossible. They always verify and double-check where such a high denomonation chip was paid off and without double-checking from the pit they will pay nobody.
    To me, it's nothing but a big bluff. Not even worth thinking about.

    From Switzerland

  10. Boris: I hear what you are saying, for one thing, if the transaction is over $10,000 a Currency Transaction Report (Form 8300) is required reporting it to the Internal Revenue Service. I know from personal experience some individuals who have gone back a few months later who have cashed, granted not a $25K chip, but chips totalling 8-9 thousand dollars let's say, and they had no problem. I don't know, but I have heard that there are a certain amount (how many I have no idea) of $25K chips out there held by high stakes poker players. If, and I don't have sufficient knowledge here, one could track each individual chip by serial number, who won it, where, playing what, etc. then I agree with you, not worth thinking about. Otherwise, I am not so sure.

  11. I won $250 at a small place in Lake Tahoe playing craps (Biltmore) They called over to the table to confirm the win, like it was a big deal.

    Boris is correct.

    Maybe they are trying to stop similar or copy cat crimes in the future?

    Good time to come to Vegas for the Swiss, dollar v. franc.

  12. Yeah, mred, I know they do that sometimes depending on amount won, etc. at the time you leave the tables and go to the cage to cash in your chips. But, I know of individuals who have left the casino without cashing their chips and brought them back several months later, I'm talking 8-9000 dollars in various denominations. These individuals were asked to show id and were asked what they were playing and that's it. Then they were paid and they left. That was some time ago, maybe procedures have changed, I don't know. Post 9/11 there has been extra concern about money laundering through the casinos for possible terrorist purposes, so maybe there has been a change in procedure for that reason as well as overall casino security/loss prevention.