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The Great Bally’s Casino Heist

All gamblers and most people in general have heard of Bally’s Casino. Based on the shores of Lake Tahoe, Nevada, it is probably the most famous North American casino outside Las Vegas.

Ever since the 1950’s, holidaymakers have flocked to Lake Tahoe, where it is possible to swim and go boating just ninety minutes from the mountain ski resorts of the Sierra Nevada.


Herman Bally saw fit to capitalize on this new influx of population by building a casino, at the time twice the size of Las Vegas’ famous Sands resort, and with all the modern amenities of the day.

Bally’s Casino went from strength to strength, having its heyday in the late sixties, where the establishment was said to be netting four million dollars –around one hundred and twenty million adjusted for inflation in today’s money- per day.

Naturally, this great cash-cow became of interest to the criminal underworld, and soon Bally’s Casino was to be the target for the greatest cash heist that had ever been.

Led by the notorious career criminal, Ed Kowalski, a thirty-eight year old of Polish decent, a team of seven men tunneled across the street (ironically from the basement of a local bank), to break into the safe of Bally’s Casino from the rear of the premises. Although on one side protected by a steel door six inches thick, the thieves needed only two jackhammers and twenty six minutes to break in from the other side, in a plan whereby its genius lay in its simplicity.

Over thirty six million dollars was taken in the Bally’s heist, of which only seventeen million was recovered after the thieves were eventually apprehended in locations as far afield as Nova Scotia and Honduras.

The Plan broke down after Kowalski, who funded the affair including their escape to international territories, insisted on a greater share of the money despite his minor role in masterminding the actual plot.

It was only a matter of time before one of his cronies became informant after capture, and the whole crew was eventually apprehended.

Bally’s Casino recovered from the heist, even gaining notoriety as a result, and still operates today, albeit with a far better security system.

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