Bringing Down the House: True Tales of Casino Robbery

Make no mistake about it - robbing a casino is no piece of cake. Gambling establishments keep their money well protected with elaborate security systems, hundreds of live cameras, and an extensive staff keeping their eyes on the tables. Still plenty of people around the world have tried to make like Danny Ocean and steal from a casino. Anyone that attempts a casino heist certainly has the cards stacked against them, but sometimes, people do manage to pull off such a stunt.

Not Quite Ocean’s 11

Three elderly men robbed $240K from a casino in Argentina by lowering themselves through a skylight in the room used for counting money.

Movies like Ocean’s 11 might give the impression of a slim and stealthy Brad Pitt lookalike sneaking into a casino, but that wasn’t the case for a casino robbery in Argentina. On September 8, 2011, three casino robbers in their 60s stole millions of pesos. The three geriatric burglars entered the casino by opening a skylight and quietly lowering themselves into the room used for counting money. According to reports, workers hardly noticed the intruders until they seized the money. Before their escape, one of the robbers shot the counting room manager… in the groin, of all places!  The men managed to escape with the cash. Unfortunately for them, the getaway driver was also an avid Blackjack player at the same establishment, and witnesses immediately recognized him while he waited in the parking lot. The three men each received 15 years in prison sending them into retirement right on time. Incidentally, the man shot recovered from his injuries.

Technically, Not Stealing

Gamblers cheat the system by using card counting and technical devices to determine the outcome of a game - and get away with it.

A group of students made millions counting cards in Blackjack. The story became a bestselling book as well as a Hollywood film called 21, starring Kevin Spacey.

The Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and Harvard both represent two of the most prestigious universities in the world and also produced one of the best laid casino heists, if you can call it that. During the 90s, a group of students made millions counting cards at Blackjack tables in Atlantic City and Las Vegas. The basic scheme involves keeping track of which cards have already been played and knowing the probability of receiving high (10, J,Q, K, A) versus low cards (2,3,4,5,6).

Although casinos have the right to throw out anyone suspected of counting cards, technically these guys did nothing illegal. The team grew over the years and pocketed millions in winnings. Eventually some of the members sold names to the Griffin Agency, an organization hired by casinos to track card counters, but it is likely that many of them continue to cash in at casinos around the world.

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Another infamous casino heist involved a laser device that a few clever gamblers snuck into a London casino. In 2004, a Hungarian woman and two Serbian men entered the Ritz Casino in London carrying laser scanners attached to their cell phones linked to a remote computer. They used the scanners to detect the speed of the roulette wheel and predict the results. Although they were arrested, the trio kept their winnings after a judge ruled that nothing illegal had been done, and walked away with £1.3 million!

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On the Other Hand, Not So Lucky

A man steals $33 million from a casino in Melbourne, Australia after hacking into the video surveillance system.

Then there’s the bandit down under who scammed the Crown Casino in Melbourne, Australia for $33 million large. In March 2013, he hacked into the casino’s security surveillance system which featured high resolution pan, tilt, zoom cameras. While the thief sat at high stakes VIP tables, a friend monitored the cameras and relayed the cards of the other players via an earpiece. The crooks got away with the scam at first until the casino caught them several weeks later.

Like Stealing Candy from a Baby

Bill Brennan made a casino robbery seem like stealing candy from a baby, when he walked out with $500K in cash and chips during his lunch break.

The tale of Bill Brennan goes down in history as one of the most unbelievable tales of casino robbery. Bill Brennan worked as a sportsbook cashier for the Stardust Casino. On a sunny September afternoon back in 1992, Brennan left for his lunch break slinging a bag filled with $500,000 in cash and casino chips, never to return. Brennan made it on the FBI’s Most Wanted List, but still remains at large over 20 years later.

Think a casino robbery looks easy, eh?

A Real Showdown

Like a scene out of an action movie, two casinos in Europe got hit when armed robbers stormed the casinos with guns blazing and drove off with thousands of Euros.

In some casino heists, the culprits draw more than cards. Back in March 2010, a group of 10 robbers wielding machine guns raided the Grand Casino near Basel, Switzerland driving off with hundreds of thousands of dollars. Dressed in all black and wearing ski masks, the gang entered on a busy Sunday with 600 guests packed into the casino. One man smashed the front door with sledgehammer while the others ran inside carrying machine guns and pistols. Some of the men ordered the guests and employees to the ground as the accomplices emptied the registers. They tried and failed to break into the casino’s main safe, but in the end the group took off for the French border in two silver Audis with €70,000. Since then only 5 men have been arrested with most of the culprits still at large.

In the same month, another European casino robbery went down when three armed men stole €240,000 after raiding a poker tournament at Berlin’s Grand Hyatt Hotel. The men stormed the hotel as though ready for battle, carrying machine guns, a machete, and hand grenades. One man entered the room containing cash from the poker tournament, while the two others stood guard outside. Then a daring security guard attacked one of the robbers, knocking the gun out of his hand and held him to the ground. He managed to redeem some of the stolen money before the two robbers returned and threatened him with a machete (seriously… who uses a machete?). The gang then ran out of the hotel where the getaway driver waited outside in a black Mercedes. Although German authorities arrested a man, he was later released for lack of evidence.

Around the world, casino robberies happen with amazing frequency. From card counting to laser scanners, people have gone to great lengths to bring down the house. Even though they might make it look easy, in the end these guys gamble with their lives to try and pull off a casino robbery. For the rest of us, we’ll gladly stick to a few rounds of Blackjack, thank you very much.

About The Author

I made my entrance to online gambling in 2004 in an attempt to understand the psyche of the casino goer. I've spent prolonged periods delving into the industry and its inner functions and continue to do so at VegasMaster every day. My research and experience has given me insights into gambling that I hope you'll benefit from.

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