Police Make Arrest in 2011 Rio Gambling Chip Robbery

In 2011, a man visited the Rio Casino in Las Vegas, Nevada, stealing $30,000 in gambling chips. For years, the culprit was able to remain aloof until this week, when FBI in Los Angeles made an arrest. The incident happened at a pai gow table at the casino and now Steven Gao has pending extradition proceedings to take him to Nevada to stand trial.

Crazy Heist

The heist happened in 2011 with the suspect able to flee the scene and remain undetected. By 2013, it was reported that the heist involved three individuals, Gao, Hiroyuki Yamaguchi and Edward Land. Gao reportedly had a gambling problem and was trying to get the chips to pay a debt of $15,000 that he owed to Land.

On the day the robbery took place, Land drop Gao to the Rio. He thought Gao was going inside to the get money. Instead, he took out a gun and mask and robbed the casino. After the robbery, it was believed that Gao went to China to avoid arrest. At the home of Land, police were able to recover $17,000 in chips as well as a bag and wig that Gao might have used in the robbery.

Land pled guilty to conspiracy and robbery charges. For Yamaguchi, he pled guilty on the same charges with an Alford plea. This means he did not admit he was guilty but agreed so that prosecutors could move on with their case. Yamaguchi was given two to six years in prison while Land skipped bail back in 2013 and has been on the run ever since.

Gao is now being held at the police department in Los Angeles while he waits to be extradited to Las Vegas.

Eventually Caught

This case was one that made headlines back in 2011 with many wondering how a person could just go inside a casino and run out with $30,000 in chips. Instances like this are not common but do occur. Across the United States there are stories of players taking chips from a gaming table, criminals holding cashier cage employees at gunpoint and all other kinds of crazy incidents.

Casinos know they are vulnerable to criminal activity due to the large amounts of money onsite. Because of this, they tend to keep sophisticated security systems in place to catch criminals in the act. Security systems have been helpful in the past to determine who an individual is to be able to figure out who is at fault during a robbery or other incident.

It will be interesting to see if Gao is extradited to Nevada and how his case ends. It is expected that he will receive jail time for his actions based on the charges he faces. He may also be able to alert authorities as to where Land is since has been on the run for several years after jumping bail.


Logan is based in Los Angeles and is an avid poker player having played in tournaments across the globe. He covers both poker & regulatory affairs.