What happens with the chips if they leave the casino?

A thief escaped on a motorcycle after stealing $ 1.5 million (approx. € 1.14 million) worth of tokens from a table at the Bellagio casino hotel, one of the most prestigious and well-guarded in Las Vegas, on Tuesday, December 14, under the watchful eye of the hotel’s video surveillance cameras. What can you do with chips stolen from a casino?

Not much, especially when your flight was as low-key as the Bellagio. This is not the first time spectacular robberies have taken place in Las Vegas. In 1993, two robbers stole $ 2.95 million worth of loot from an armored car outside the Circus Circus hotel. One of the two criminals surrendered after more than ten years on the run, but his accomplice is still running with the loot. The Bellagio had also been robbed, but in the movies, in Ocean’s Eleven:

New feature of the December Bellagio robbery: the thief stole plastic chips— not cash-worth between $ 100 and $ 25,000 each. The only way to turn chips into money is to exchange them at the casino they belong to.

The vast majority of casinos have chips specific to their establishment that are not exchangeable anywhere else. The MGM Resorts International Group, which owns some of Las Vegas ‘ largest casinos, including the Bellagio, certainly allows its players to exchange chips from one casino to another in the same group. But when it comes to large sums, institutions check with each other to make sure that the chips have been earned legally. And given the media coverage of the Bellagio case, the casinos of the MGM group will be particularly vigilant during the chip exchanges.

Another difficulty is that the “big players” are known to the casinos, which keep track of their exploits. If a client who is not known from the casino comes to exchange a $ 25,000 chip, he will arouse suspicion. Similarly, if the thief entrusts his chips to a large player to be exchanged for them, the casino can easily verify whether the player has made any large profits recently. The thief may be able to use accomplices to exchange small tokens like those of $ 100, but certainly not those of $ 25,000.

Especially if they are equipped with “cookies”, frequency transmitters that work a bit like a barcode, the Bellagio refused to reveal whether it used this system, and generally, casino groups are secretive on the issue. In France, the Barrière group, which owns more than 35 casinos in France and Switzerland, simply claims to have “human and technical security devices to deal with all kinds of situations”, without specifying which ones. In the United States, the US Federal police have already put in place a mechanism to monitor anyone trading in tokens ranging from $ 100 to $ 25,000 and to ensure that anyone wishing to withdraw high-value tokens provides identification. As a last resort, a casino may also decide to replace all of its chips with new ones that look different. If a person tries to exchange a large number of old chips, they will immediately be identified as a suspect.

The only way to steal chips from a casino and exchange them for sure is to use a strategy opposed to that of the Bellagio robber: discretion. If the casino doesn’t know that chips have been stolen, the thief can safely exchange his loot for cash. Professional scammers have developed a wide variety of “tricks” to steal chips from casinos.