Hollywood is full of stories about crime and the unconventional hero. That’s why casino heists are such a reliably entertaining subject for some of the biggest blockbuster films.
As entertaining as movies like Ocean’s Eleven and 3,000 Miles to Graceland are, sometimes the best stories are the ones that actually happened in real life.
That’s why we’re counting down the five biggest real-life casino heists that are more interesting than any trip to the cinema!
Biggest Real-Life Casino Heists
Casinos are a hub of luxury and excess. As such, it makes sense that these establishments can at times attract some interesting personalities. Whether people are there for drinks, entertainment, or to try their hand at winning a jackpot, casinos offer many draws for people from all walks of life.
For those who aren’t a fan of all the fanfare, it’s fortunate that there are so many awesome slot sites in the UK and all around the world that can help them win big.
For others, gambling at the slot machines or casino tables is too much of a risk for an unpredictable reward. So instead, they turn to more nefarious schemes to win one over on the house.
Here are the five biggest heists where some enterprising criminals risked it all.
In December 2010, a lone motorcyclist pulled off a robbery at one of the most famous casino hotels on the Las Vegas strip.
Parking his black motorcycle by the valet area at around 4 a.m. on a Tuesday, the robber entered the Bellagio. He kept his motorcycle helmet on to hide his face and a pair of black gloves on his hands.
The daring criminal walked into the casino and directly up to a craps table while wielding a gun. After telling the shocked gamblers to back off, he began stuffing as many casino chips as he could into a bag on his waist.
The chips in question ranged from $100 to $25,000 in value, and he walked off with approximately $1.5 million. Rather than risk injuring any bystanders, casino security simply let him walk out.
Perhaps that was also because security knew something the robber didn’t—that the casino chips don’t carry much value outside the casino itself.
So, the ‘Biker Bandit,’ as he was soon called, came back to the casino to play. It turns out the robber was Tony Carleo, a regular gambler on the Las Vegas strip who had frequented the Bellagio many times.
In fact, a poker dealer at the Bellagio pointed investigators towards Carleo. Carleo had mistakenly shared his fantasy of walking up to a table and taking the chips with the dealer. When the theft occurred a few days later, and Carleo returned to gamble with newfound funds shortly after, the dealer knew who’d committed the crime.
- Soboba Casino
Like many other people on this list, the ringleader of the Soboba Casino heist in California was inspired by movies like Ocean’s Eleven. Unlike the others on this list, however, this would-be mastermind confessed that he was high on cocaine during the heist.
Rolando Luda Ramos was 25 and an employee of the casino at the time of the heist in August 2007. He was able to pull off the job by pretending he was there to work on the surveillance cameras, as usual.
Instead of doing his job, Ramos hogtied three employees before getting two unsuspecting security guards to escort him to the vault. They must have had the surprise of their life when Ramos pulled a gun on them and other employees instead of tending to the cameras as he should’ve.
He held off the employees with the weapon—which he later claimed was a BB gun—while he stuffed $1.58 million of cash in a duffel bag.
Ramos’s success didn’t last long, though, as he was arrested the day after the robbery, along with a fellow employee and his girlfriend.
- Ritz Casino
Now this is a heist worthy of a Hollywood film. Two men and one woman perplexed investigators when they carried out a high-tech robbery at the Ritz Casino in London back in March 2004.
According to Scotland Yard, the thieves used a laser scanner inside a mobile phone to outsmart the roulette wheel. The phone was allegedly linked to a computer, which would predict the ball’s eventual resting place.
Their scheme, based on a theory called sector targeting, allowed the trio to walk out of the casino with £1.3 million over two nights. The conspirators might have gotten away with it if they hadn’t won big the second night—to the tune of £1.2 million.
As is standard with big wins of this sort, the casino reviewed security footage and called the police. When the police noticed something suspicious, the three friends were arrested.
- Circus Circus
The story of this heist did get its own little Hollywood treatment when Netflix featured it in the crime docu-series Heist. It’s no wonder they featured it, as this casino robbery truly has all the elements of a great crime.
The robbery occurred in 1993 and involved a shady romance between Heather Tallchief and her convicted-murderer boyfriend, Roberto Solis. Relationship woes aside, the two successfully pulled off one of the biggest heists in Las Vegas history.
Tallchief, who was 21 at the time, had recently started a job with an armoured car company called Loomis. She claims she didn’t realize at the time that this was the same company her boyfriend—who was 27 years her senior—had tried to rob in 1969.
Just weeks after starting her job, Tallchief drove off with $3 million while her co-workers were busy filling ATMs inside the Circus Circus Casino.
She met up with Solis, and the two shipped the money to Miami before fleeing the country. But the most shocking thing about the heist? After 12 years of evading capture abroad, Tallchief returned to the United States and turned herself in for her crime.
- Crown Casino
This heist is one of the most fascinating crimes we’ve come across. This is due not only to the crime’s scope but also to the casino’s response.
Back in February 2013, one of its high rollers robbed the Crown Casino in Melbourne of $32 million. Curiously, instead of calling the police to investigate, the casino decided to handle the problem themselves.
This might have been because the robbery was an inside job. The high-rolling gambler from New Zealand was invited to the casino to gamble by a VIP Services Manager. The employee worked to breach security cameras and sent signals to the gambler throughout.
When casino security became suspicious of the winning streak that produced such a big win, they investigated. Following his win, casino security visited the fraudster in his hotel room and asked him to leave. Thankfully, the majority of the money hadn’t been paid out yet.
However, the would-be robber’s departure left the casino in a bit of a scramble. The high roller was scheduled to take part in a PR stunt for the casino the very next day. Instead, they had to find another VIP to serve the world’s most expensive cocktail.
Perhaps wishing to avoid bad PR, the casino never reported the crime. The heist only came to light after a local newspaper broke the story a few weeks later.