Greatest Casino Heists of All Time – Howling Success or Epic Fails
While we do know that casinos spend a lot on security, the sheer size of casino floors makes it extremely difficult to protect everything at all times. This, combined with the fact that there is always plenty of cash on the site, makes casinos an ideal target for robbery.
Therefore, it is not a surprise that quite a few people have tried robbing casinos in Las Vegas and beyond over the years, and we looked for some of the most interesting real-life casino heists stories out there.
While some robbers managed to ride off into the sunset, never to be found, others ended up behind bars for decades.
These are the stories of the biggest casino heists in history, how they were pulled off, and what happened to the people behind them.
1. Stardust Casino in Las Vegas – 1992
Back in 1992, the Stardust Casino was one of the biggest and most successful casinos in Las Vegas, and it was a target to quite an innocent-looking heist.
A casino employee who worked as a cashier, Bill Brennan, decided that he had had enough of working for a paycheck and that it was time to cash in.
One day, he stuffed his backpack with over $500,000 in cash and chips and simply walked out the door, no questions asked.
Apparently, the security at the time was not as strict as these days, and Bill was able to walk out with the backpack without raising any eyebrows.
What was supposed to be a lunch break turned into a manhunt, but Brennan was never caught despite the FBI looking for him for three decades.
It is very likely that he fled the country with his loot and never looked back, and at this point, it doesn't really matter if he is ever found or not.
2. Ritz Casino in London – 2004
The Ritz Casino in London was the site of a hi-tech robbery that actually ended up with the burglars walking away without any punishment despite being caught.
The robbery was done by a pair of Serbian men and a Hungarian woman who took to the roulette tables and won close to $2 million over the course of a couple of days.
This would not be unusual, except the trio used a highly sophisticated laser-based tool to help them predict where the ball would land on the roulette wheel.
This kind of tool was never seen before, and it somehow was able to predict what section of the roulette wheel the ball would end up in based on a variety of parameters.
The casino staff caught up to what was going on, and they reported the case, with the three "robbers" apprehended.
However, the case went to British courts, and the judge there decided that nothing illegal had taken place, which meant that no penalty was issued, and the three Eastern Europeans even managed to hold on to their loot.
3. The MIT Team in Las Vegas – the 1990s
Another interesting case of a team taking down Vegas for millions of dollars and not being punished for it was the infamous "MIT Team," which operated in the 1990s.
The Team was made up of a professor and several students from the prestigious MIT University who had become extremely proficient at card counting.
The Team traveled back and forth to Las Vegas and was able to win millions of dollars playing the game of blackjack using card counting techniques, acting, and deception.
While I list this under the biggest casino heists of all time, it is worth noting that the US courts decided that there was nothing illegal about card counting.
That said, the Team was exposed to harassment on the part of the Vegas casinos back in the day, and they were eventually banned from playing there altogether.
Yet, the story of the MIT Team lives to this day, and the famous movie "21" featuring Kevin Spacey and telling the story of the MIT Team became very popular back in 2008.
4. The Bellagio in Las Vegas – 2000
Now we move on to a "proper" armed robbery that went down at the Bellagio in 2000, organized by Jose Vigoa and a couple of accomplices.
In 2000, the three assailants walked into the Bellagio and tried to snatch over $160,000 in cash and chips from a cashier.
At the time of the heist, Vigoa was already a familiar face to the authorities, charged with several successful armed robberies. That was one of the main reasons this plan failed since Vigoa was spotted even before the robbery, as he decided to simply walk into the casino despite being a wanted man.
The police caught all three assailants fairly quickly, and the brains behind the operation, Vigoa, was sent to prison to serve four life sentences, being the repeat offender that he was.
5. The Mandalay Bay in Las Vegas – 2005
The next heist takes us back to Sin City, with the Mandalay Bay being the target of the robbery that went down in 2005.
This time around, two robbers were smart enough not to be spotted early and wore masks during the heist itself.
In a fashion that resembles an action movie, the two apparently fired shots, ordered the casino staff down to the ground, and managed to pick up an undisclosed amount of cash.
To this day, neither the casino nor the authorities have officially confirmed how much money was stolen in this heist, likely because the assailants were never caught.
The two robbers drove off in a car they had parked near the casino, and the police were not able to catch them or identify them following the incident.
With 17 years having passed since the incident, it is quite safe to say that this particular heist was a success, and the robbers will likely never answer for their crime.
6. The Crown Casino in Perth – 2013
While many major casino heists and grifts happened in high-roller Las Vegas casinos, one of the biggest heists of all time happened down under, with the Crown Casino in Perth being the target.
This was also not your typical heist with guns and masks, but rather a highly sophisticated plan to steal the money from right under the casino staff's noses.
What other way would robbers possibly have to take $32 million in cash from the casino, after all?
This heist was an inside job, but unfortunately for the organizer, it ended up as a failure.
The details of the heist are not fully disclosed, but it included a casino employee using the security camera feeds to report to the robber, who was playing games on the casino floor.
The fraud was detected and stopped before the assailants could cash in their chips, but the court ended up sending them home without any legal penalty.
The casino employee also did not suffer any jail time or other punishment but was fired from the casino, which is certainly the best he could have hoped for under the circumstances.
7. Circus Circus in Las Vegas – 1993
The story of Bonnie and Clyde is the favorite of many who spend their lives in the gray zone, and in 1993 one couple decided to turn this story into their reality.
Roberto Solis and Heather Tallchief were a couple in love. Solis had just come out of prison, where he had served a 17-year sentence for robbery and murder, but the prison stint did not seem to make him a better man.
With Heather infiltrating the security company that was driving armored trucks full of cash out of Circus Circus Hotel & Casino, the pair were able to steal the truck and drive away with it.
They took over $2.5 million in cash out of the truck, changed vehicles, and fled the country.
The couple was never caught, making the heist a massive success for "Bonnie and Clyde."
And while Solis remains a free man to this day, Tallchief ended up surrendering and serving five years in prison for her crime after being abandoned by Solis sometime after the robbery.