Gaming Commission: MS casinos prepared for heist

BILOXI, MS (WLOX) - By Elizabeth Vowell – email

BILOXI, MS (WLOX) -  A man in motorcycle gear, wielding a gun, charged the Bellagio Casino in Las Vegas and ran out with $1.5 million in casino chips. The dramatic event was caught on surveillance video.

While the robber's actions have been called brazen, the Mississippi Gaming Commission says robberies are an expected part of the business.

"Being in the law enforcement side of the gaming commission, we deal with people who routinely come in and steal and cheat. So it's just another example of ways that people will try to take advantage of casinos," said David Kingman, Director of the Mississippi Gaming Commission's Enforcement Branch.

However, Kingman said every casino has security and regulations built in, from the floor layouts, to trained guards, and security cameras, all ready to handle those situations.

"They see it on TV and they go, 'Hmm that's a good idea.' But the issue, when you decide to steal something like a gaming chip off a table, is they're controlled items. There are only so many of them and there are very strict rules on how they're cashed in," explained Kingman.

Walking down casino row, it's easy to picture George Clooney plotting some casino heist. However, the gaming commission says, not so fast.  Anyone who walks out of a casino with stolen chips probably won't make it very far, thanks to those regulations.

"That's why we have a good rapport with the local law enforcement agencies, both here in Biloxi, Gulfport, Harrison, Hancock Counties Sheriff's Departments.  Let them get out the door and we take care of it once they are outside where they are less of a threat to the general public," said Kingman.

The commission's policy on robberies is actually to let the person go. It says the safety of the public and employees is always the first priority, and that no amount of chips is worth someone getting hurt.

Kingman also emphasized that each casino security team is well trained to spot criminal activity before it happens, and to respond when it does occur.

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