Two held over Vegas $33,000 poker heist

Police in Las Vegas have made two arrests after an armed robber grabbed poker chips worth $33,000 (£21,000) from one of the city's casinos.

The theft was the second large-scale robbery of chips in Las Vegas in three months – suggesting that casino chips have almost become a currency in their own right for armed robbers.

A taxi driver and a second man were arrested after a lone gunman stole the chips from the Rio All-Suite Hotel & Casino, near the Las Vegas Strip last Thursday.

The alleged gunman, Steven Gao, 45, snatched the chips from a pai gow poker table before fleeing in a taxi driven by 61-year-old Hiroyuki Yamaguchi, according to the police.

Mr Yamaguchi was arrested hours later, after Mr Gao was dropped off at another casino, where police said he met with another suspect, Edward Land, and gave him $17,000 in stolen chips to repay a debt.

Mr Land said he drove Mr Gao to the Rio on the day of the heist, and became suspicious when Mr Gao donned a fake moustache, a wig and a fedora.

In December, a thief took more than $1.5m in chips from a craps table at Vegas's Bellagio casino. Police do not believe that the two cases are linked or connected with organised crime.

During the Bellagio robbery, individual chips each worth $25,000 were stolen – an unusual denomination for most gamblers to possess. Chips worth $1,000 or less are far more common in Nevada casinos, making them more difficult to trace when they are stolen.

The Rio is owned by Caesars Entertainment, the world's largest gambling company by revenue, and is home to the annual World Series of Poker.

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