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A Genuine Heist (Updated)

A motorcycle bandit robs the Bellagio ... and gets away with it?

11:00 AM, Dec 15, 2010 • By VICTORINO MATUS
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The unthinkable has happened. A man has managed to rip off the Bellagio casino in Las Vegas, getting away with more than $1.5 million in chips. Reports the Las Vegas Review-Journal:

Police said a man parked his late-model black sport motorcycle at the north valet entrance of the casino about 3:50 a.m. He entered the casino wearing a white, full-face motorcycle helmet and a leather jacket, police said.

The man approached a nearby craps table and demanded money, which he received, and then left the casino. He fled west on Flamingo Road on the motorcycle, police said.

No one was hurt and no shots were fired, according to Lt. Clint Nichols. The man did not take money from casino patrons and was in the casino for only 2 to 3 minutes.

"He parked, walked in, committed the robbery and left," he said.

And all without the aid of a Chinese acrobat.

Of course, unlike Hollywood's telling of impregnable casinos, heists really do happen in Vegas. A friend of mine was witness to one a few years ago. One moment she's pulling on a slot machine, the next, she's hiding behind it while armed men are pulling off a score. (I asked her if, while hiding behind the one-armed bandit, she continued hitting the "max bet" button. She declined to answer.)

According to the Review-Journal, "In 2009, there were nine casino robberies in the Las Vegas Police jurisdiction. Tuesday's robbery makes 10 for 2010, [Nichols] said."

But $1.5 million in chips from a craps table? The minimum must have been at least $1,000, and the robber must have sought out the specific chips—some royal color I've never handled in my life. (What I remember are the pink $5 chips from the Sands in Atlantic City—the ones with faces of prominent celebrities like Shecky Greene.)

And what about the security guards, the cameras, and everything else at the Bellagio's disposal? Are "security consultants" fanning out across town or hanging out at strip clubs where the suspect might get dancers to exchange chips for cash (as explained in Bringing Down the House). And would this have happened under an earlier regime, say, under the watchful eye of Anthony Spilotro (whose men were already skimming the skim)? Indeed, remember that scene from Casino where the cheaters are brought to justice?

Update Dec. 15, 11:20am: We have now learned the gaming chips taken by the motorcycle bandit were in fact $25,000 a piece. This makes it a bit harder for the suspect to exchange, considering the enormity of the denomination. In addition, as recently reported, some chips are embedded with tracking devices, though it is unclear if Bellagio's $25k chips are designed as such. Who knows, maybe they'll be found in the desert, along with the rest of Ted Binion's coin collection.

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