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Bellagio puts bandit on notice: Chips are changing

Casino bosses are serving notice to the bandit who made off with $1.5 million in chips from the Bellagio: Try to redeem those worth $25,000 soon, or they will become worthless.

Bellagio owner MGM Resorts International has given public notice that it is discontinuing its standard $25,000 chip and calling for all gamblers to redeem them by April 22.

After that, gambling regulators say each red chip with a gray inlay won’t be worth a dime.

"The bottom line is that they’re not money," said David Salas, deputy enforcement chief for the Nevada Gaming Control Board.

MGM Resorts posted notice of the redemption in the Las Vegas Review-Journal’s classified section a week after a robber wearing a motorcycle helmet held up a craps table at gunpoint and made off with chips of varying denominations.

Police and casino officials have been looking for the bandit since the Dec. 14 heist and are watching anyone trying to cash in the chips, which ranged in denomination from $100 to $25,000.

A Metropolitan Police Department spokeswoman said Wednesday that there have been no significant developments in the case.

MGM Resorts spokesman Alan Feldman said chips were switched out at the tables within an hour of the robbery, and the Bellagio immediately filed to discontinue the chips.

Feldman said the move was intended to avoid inconveniencing players using the high-value chips. He said he does not know how many chips exist and are, as yet, uncashed.

"Obviously, anyone walking (around) with one of the old series is going to be subject to a certain amount of questioning as to how they obtained them, assuming it isn’t someone we know," Feldman said. "It’s pretty unusual for someone we don’t know to come strolling up with a handful of $25,000 chips."

Discontinuing chips is not uncommon for Las Vegas casinos, even at high denominations, Salas said.

Commemorative chips marking a noteworthy prizefight, for example, often have a finite circulation.

On Wednesday, the Silver Nugget Casino in North Las Vegas posted notice that it planned to discontinue chips with the Mahoney’s Silver Nugget logo.

State laws require casino operators to serve notice, file a plan with regulators and give gamblers a reasonable amount of time to cash in, in this case four months.

The move may be moot given other casino safeguards intended to track patrons who cash high-value chips, but it will help reduce the number of chips in circulation.

"If they have people that they know are players redeem the ones that they know they have, pretty much it’s process of elimination; you’re left with people who aren’t supposed to have the chips," said David Schwartz, a former casino security guard and director of the Center for Gaming Research at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas.

It’s not clear how many of the stolen chips were $25,000 chips, though at most it would be 48.

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