Don't blame the Bellagio -- it could have happened to anyone.
The brazen Tuesday morning robbery that netted $1.5 million in gambling chips from one of the Strip's most luxurious casinos didn't succeed because of security failures, said Lt. Clint Nichols, who oversees the Metropolitan Police Department's robbery section.
"It could have happened to the MGM (Grand), it could have happened to Circus Circus," he said. "Why the Bellagio? I'll have that answer when we find him (the suspect)."
No arrests have been made as of Friday afternoon. Nichols said police have been investigating every lead -- even fake Craigslist ads for "stolen Bellagio chips" from Internet pranksters.
"This is a high priority case, and we're looking at everything," he said.
Tuesday's robbery occurred at 3:50 a.m. when a man parked a late-model black sport motorcycle at the north valet entrance of the Bellagio. He entered the casino wearing a white, full-face motorcycle helmet and a leather jacket. He approached a nearby craps table, pointed a gun and demanded money, which he received.
Casino security didn't try to apprehend the man out of concerns that patrons might be killed or injured if the man decided to use his pistol, police said.
The man then fled west on Flamingo Road on the motorcycle.
After the robbery, police revealed that a nearly identical robbery had occurred at the Suncoast the week before, when an armed man wearing a motorcycle helmet stole $20,000 in cash from a poker room cashier's cage.
While widely known among casino security workers, the Suncoast robbery wasn't announced to the general public because surveillance camera footage showed no identifiable traits, Nichols said.
All casinos were immediately alerted to the Suncoast robbery using an industry crime alert system, which is routinely updated with important bulletins. The information-sharing system is maintained by the casinos, but police also have access, Nichols said.
Security officials at Bellagio would undoubtedly have known about the bike-helmet bandit, but it wouldn't make the crime any easier to prevent. The man was in and out of the casino in just a few minutes, leaving little time for security to react, Nichols said.
"That (the Bellagio) is one large property," he said. "At 4 a.m. on a Tuesday, well that's a pretty tough thing to stop. Just about any business could fall victim to that."
A Bellagio spokeswoman declined comment Friday, citing the ongoing investigation.
Jerry Markling, chief of the Nevada Gaming Control Board's enforcement division, said each casino has their own security protocols. He said he couldn't comment on Bellagio's security, or whether their preventative measures were effective.
"As the Gaming Control Board, we don't get too involved in how they run their systems," he said. "That's their business, and the decisions are left up to the licensee."
Their agency periodically issues bulletins to casinos, but those tend to be alerts about known cheaters and or scams, he said.
Markling said he believes Bellagio security is effective. No one was hurt, no shots were fired and the chips will likely be impossible to cash in, he said.
Additional preventative measures, such as metal detectors at entrances, would simply decrease business, he said.
"You don't want to restrict access or cause somebody to jump through too many hoops," he said. "It's (robberies) are not a widespread problem, and so far we haven't had too many instances of people being injured I think they're doing a good job."
Las Vegas casinos report about nine or 10 robberies in any given year.
Contact reporter Mike Blasky at email@example.com or 702-383-0283.