One armored truck guard was shot and injured during a brazen holdup outside Larry Flynt’s Hustler Casino in Gardena, Calif., Thursday morning. He was in critical condition at a local hospital but is expected to survive, local TV stations reported. A second guard had less serious injuries.
The guards were attacked by a barrage of gunfire when exiting the truck, Gardena police Lt. Christopher Cuff said, calling it an “ambush,” KTLA reported. At least two robbers grabbed an unknown amount of money and fled the area, police initially said.
One witness estimated as many as 12 shots were fired. Another witness in the casino, Alvin Spencer, told KTLA he fled for his life.
That’s all I was doing, running, because they let off shots, so I had to get the hell out of there. That’s what I did,” Spencer said.
The heist was carried out by as many as three suspects, KABC further said in initial reports. There were also unconfirmed reports one of the suspects might have been wounded, based on what a witness told KNBC. It is believed the guards exchanged gunfire with the suspects.
There were no shots fired inside the casino, KCBS reported. But KTLA reported casino patrons and workers were evacuated. Police and firefighters established a perimeter around the Hustler Casino crime scene, too, KTLA said.
Local firefighters and officers arrived at the crime scene off Redondo Beach Boulevard shortly before 10:30 am PT. Later, officers responded to a building at the intersection of 155th Street and Vermont Avenue to apprehend one of the suspects, KABC said. It is believed to be the Moose Lodge.
Police SUVs and an armored police vehicle, typical of SWAT teams, responded to the scene. But as of 2 pm PT, the suspects were still on the loose. A vehicle linked to the suspects was recovered by police, KABC said.
As of midday Thursday, police had yet to issue descriptions of the suspects. Gardena is a suburb of Los Angeles.
Ties to Larry Flynt
Hustler Casino was owned by Hustler magazine publisher Larry Flynt via El Dorado Enterprises until his death last year. Typically, it is opened 24-7. It has table games such as Blackjack, Texas Hold’em, Three Card Poker, and Pai Gow Poker. It has been described repeatedly as a card room or poker room.
The conglomerate also includes Larry Flynt’s Lucky Lady Casino. In 2019, 11 patrons were injured when part of the roof at Larry Flynt’s Lucky Lady Casino collapsed.
The entire Flynt enterprise is worth around $500 million, the Los Angeles Times reported.
In February, Larry Flynt’s younger brother, Jimmy Flynt, sued Flynt’s widow for half of the Hustler porn and casino empire.
Jimmy Flynt claims he was “wrongfully and inequitably” cut out of his brother’s will. Larry Flynt left the entire Hustler enterprise to his fifth wife and former nurse, Elisabeth Flynt, via the Larry Flynt Revocable Trust.
But Jimmy Flynt claimed that without his contribution and loyalty to his brother, the Hustler business would have “never achieved the success or growth that it did,” the lawsuit said.
The brothers had a falling out in 2009, and Jimmy Flynt was removed as a beneficiary. For six years, the brothers were swept up in extensive litigation.
Already in the News
The famous L.A. poker room made headlines for another undesirable reason this week. It canceled a $250,000-guarantee poker tournament with four days of play remaining.
Blaming the Aug. 2, 2022 cancelation on “unexpected circumstances,” Hustler tweeted an apology “for any inconvenience this may have caused.” It indicated that it would still play Day 2 for the pre-qualified players with the current prize pool of $27,000.
According to a statement from pokernews.com, the casino promised to issue a full refund to all registered players and hold a large tournament with $50k more added to its prize pool.
The canceled tournament was to climax the Larry Flynt Grand Slam of Poker Memorial Tournament series running July 17-Aug. 6, 2022, with over $400,000 guarantees, including $50k for first place. The $350 buy-in event scheduled a dozen starting flights, four of which had already been played.
Hustler Casino General Manager Shaun Yaple explained on Twitter that a “bigger club stepped on us after we released our schedule” and that it would be “better to re-group and plan for the future (than) head off a cliff.” This was not an explanation that sat well with Twitter’s poker stars.
“The reality of running tournaments is if another club announces a tournament, you ride it out,” tweeted Doug Polk, who purchased the Lodge Card Club in Austin earlier this year. “Lose money? Regroup and make a new strategy. It isn’t the player’s responsibility for you to hit your guarantee. Hanging poker players out to dry like this is unacceptable.”
Not the First Time
This was not the first poker tournament with a large guarantee in recent memory to cancel at the last minute. In June 2022, the Orleans Casino in Las Vegas canceled the three remaining multi-flight events in its Summer Open poker series, including one with a $250k guarantee.
In December 2021, poker champ Johnny Chan’s 88 Social Club in Houston canceled a planned tournament before the club ceased operations amid financial mismanagement and insolvency concerns. (Prime Social stepped in and held its Enchanted Xmas Series on the same dates.)
Corey Levitan contributed to this report.
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