Casino heists make for a great story. The sheer guts and skill it must take to actually rob a casino, highly secured and on the lookout for fraud, when the chances of a custodial sentence are so high – it’s the kind of thing even most hardened criminals would balk at. Yet some plucky scammers, cheats and robbers do decide to have a go at casinos, and some – albeit a small number – manage to get away with it.
In a similar fashion to some of the most well know casinos scams in history, here are some of the most notable casino heists of all time, renowned for their scale, simplicity or daring. Some could well be the plot line for the next casino heist film, and all of them make for an intriguing story. So without any further ado, here’s how these events unfolded.
When the Crown Casino fell victim to a heist in 2013, it set new records for the largest amount ever stolen in this type of operation. A whopping $32 million was lost to the heist, although miraculously, the casino was ultimately able to recover the majority of the money. The heist involved two rogues working in partnership to deceive the casino, through an intricate process of observation and information exchange.
As with most of the largest heists in history, the Crown Casino was an inside job. It involved one of the security operators, who was able to monitor cameras over high-roller tables. He used the information available to him to relay insights to a player at the table, who played and bet accordingly, with the two sharing the spoils.
The plan was successful for a while, but was ultimately detected, after a succession of very high paying hands triggered suspicion. Unbelievably, because the money was recovered from the duo, both were free to leave with relatively light punishments, and neither of them served any jail time for their heist – incredibly lucky. You have to admire the brass neck, even if their plan didn’t quite go as smoothly as they’d hoped.
Casino heists are often inside jobs, and while casinos by and large can rely on their staff to be honest, there are always a few who decide to chase a bigger pay day. Heather Tallchief was one such employee. Her job was driving armoured vehicles, which ferried money from the Circus Circus casino to the bank. But at the end of her shift one day in 1993, she just decided to up it and leave instead – driving away with her truck, and its contents, worth some $3 million.
With her partner, she fled to the Netherlands, where they lived without detection for some 12 years. Tallchief was never found, but remarkably came forward to the authorities in 2005, handing herself in because she wanted to live a more normal life. Without making herself known to the police, there is no telling whether she would ever have been caught. As of today, her partner in crime remains at large.
If you’ve seen Ocean’s Eleven, one of the best gambling films of all time, you could be forgiven for thinking that every single successful casino heist in history has been an elaborate operation. But in reality, there have been instances where much more basic plans have worked, and left casinos reeling from the losses. The Bill Brennan case is an excellent example of a casino heist that kept things simple, and as a result, proved to be incredibly successful where many more elaborate schemes have failed.
Bill Brennan was a devoted casino employee, working as a cashier for a number of years at the Stardust in Las Vegas. No one could have foreseen that beneath the veneer of normality, Brennan was about to pull off one of the most simple casino heists ever witnessed. Not necessarily the biggest heist ever, but enough to see him right – $500,000 to be precise, back in 1992.
No one will know whether Brennan acted on impulse or whether he had planned ahead. But at the end of his shift one day, he simply walked away from his job with the money in cash and chips on his person. Brennan never returned to work, and hasn’t been seen or heard of since. In fact, even today, he remains on the FBI’s Most Wanted list, for undoubtedly one of the most audacious, if not one of the biggest, casino heists in history.