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LAS VEGAS -- An armed bandit escaped Tuesday on a motorcycle after stealing at least $1.5 million in casino chips from the posh Bellagio resort and may have pulled a similar caper across town less than a week ago, police said.
The culprit, however, might find it hard to redeem his loot because the chips are only good at the high-end, Italian-themed hotel-casino with a wall of famous fountains along the Las Vegas Strip.
The 3:50 a.m. robbery at a craps table happened "about as quick as you can do it," when a man wearing a motorcycle helmet pulled a gun on patrons, police Lt. Clinton Nichols told The Associated Press.
Police later released an 11-second video showing a man in a jumpsuit running through a casino entry lobby with a gun in his right hand. At one point, he turned and pointed the weapon behind him. His helmet appeared to be red with twin white stripes from front to rear.
Police suspect the same man wore a helmet, flashed a gun and sped away on a black sport motorcycle after robbing the Las Vegas Suncoast Hotel & Casino poker room about on Dec. 9.
That heist netted less than $20,000 in chips, Las Vegas police Officer Barbara Morgan said. Police also released several photos Tuesday of the robber at the Suncoast.
Estimates of the amount taken from Bellagio varied. Nichols said it could approach $2 million. In a press release, police put the amount at about $1.5 million.
Gordon Absher, spokesman for Bellagio owner MGM Resorts International, declined to discuss the investigation. But he noted that casino chips aren't the same as cash.
"At some point they have to be redeemed," Absher said.
Chips are unique to casino properties and are not interchangeable. Absher wouldn't say if MGM Resorts properties are among Las Vegas casinos that embed radio frequency devices in its chips.
The chips taken at Bellagio ranged in value from $100 to $25,000. Authorities plan to watch for anyone trying to cash high-value Bellagio chips.
"We have safeguards in place," Morgan said.