LAS VEGAS - An armed bandit escaped on a motorcycle yesterday after stealing at least $1.5 million in casino chips from the posh Bellagio resort and may have pulled a similar caper across town less than a week ago, police said.
The thief took Bellagio chips ranging in value from $100 to $25,000, and authorities plan to watch for anyone trying to cash high-denomination chips at the Italian-themed casino with a wall of famous fountains along the Las Vegas Strip.
The robbery had the makings of a scene straight out of a Hollywood caper. Police say a man wearing a jumpsuit and a motorcycle helmet with white stripes walked into the casino with a gun, robbed a craps table then sped away on a motorcycle in the dead of night.
The culprit, however, might find it hard to redeem his loot at any other casino except Bellagio.
The 3:50 a.m. robbery happened "about as quick as you can do it," police Lt. Clinton Nichols said.
Police later released an 11-second video showing a man running through a casino entry lobby with a gun in his right hand. At one point, he turned and pointed the weapon behind him.
Police suspect the same man wore a helmet, flashed a gun and sped away on a black sport motorcycle after robbing the Las Vegas Suncoast Hotel & Casino poker room on Dec. 9.
That heist netted less than $20,000 from a poker-room cashier, police said.
Police put the amount taken from the Bellagio at about $1.5 million.
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 generally not interchangeable, although state regulations allow casino companies to redeem chips from sister properties with some restrictions.
Absher wouldn't say if MGM Resorts properties are among Las Vegas casinos that embed radio frequency devices in chips.
But police will be keeping a close eye on cashier cages in case someone shows up with a stack of $25,000 chips.
"We have safeguards in place," police Officer Barbara Morgan said.