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Bellagio bandit gets $1.5 million in gambling chips


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 »
Click to enlarge photo

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

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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