Casino chip security

Since casino chips are valuable – a single casino chip can be exchanged for several thousand dollars – they have always been a target for thieves, robbers and counterfeiters. Today, casinos employ various techniques to make their casino chips less attractive in the eyes of criminals. It is not only a question of not wanting to lose the actual chips (which can be replaced), but a question of wanting to avoid robberies all together considering all the damage to staff, casino patrons and property such crimes can cause.

  • To begin with, it is common for each individual casino to have its own set of chips, even when the casino belongs to a major casino chain. This makes it easier to know exactly which casino a specific casino chip belongs to. It is also a question of book keeping and adhering to casino regulations, since each chip (and plaque) on the floor has to be backed up with the right amount of cash.
  • If you hold your casino chip under a black-light, you will most likely see UV-markings. It is popular among modern casinos to have their casino chips UV-marked to make it easier to spot counterfeit casino chips. The cashier station can quickly check even a large number of chips under black-light. It is also common for casino dealers to have access to black-lights at their tables since black-lights are used to check for counterfeit bills as well.
  • In most part of the world, including most parts of the United States, a casino will not accept casino chips from another casino. A notable exception is Nevada, the U.S. state where Las Vegas is located. Not accepting casino chips from another casino is a way of keeping security tight, since it is difficult for the cashier to keep abreast on how to distinguish a real casino chip from a counterfeit one for chips hailing from a long row of different casinos. No honoring casino chips from other casinos also makes it impossible for a robber to quickly exchange stolen casino chips for cash after the crime.
  • In certain jurisdictions, casinos are required to have a reserve set of casino chips with alternate markings. If a counterfeit casino chip is spotted, all the old chips can be removed from the floor and replaced with the new ones. Any chip that shows up with the old marking will then be easy to spot and will be taken in for further investigation to see if the casino chip is genuine or counterfeit.
  • Some casinos use Radio-frequency RFID technology. Radio waves are used to transfer data between a reader and an electronic tag embedded in the casino chip. Each casino chip can be given its own unique identifying number. Passive RFID tags have no battery and can be read as long as they are close enough to a RFID reader. Unlike a bar code, the tag does not have to be “shown” to the reader. The tag can therefore be read even if it inside something, like a pocket or a briefcase. Also, a RFID reader can read hundreds of tags simultaneously.

Wynn Casino is one of the pioneers in the field and began placing RFID tags on their high value casino chips as early as 2005. In addition to detecting counterfeit casino chips, the technology was also used to determine counting mistakes made by dealers, speed up chip tallies and track betting habits. Several other casinos followed in suite, and when Bellagio Casino was robbed of $1.5 million in casino chips in 2010 the RFID tags of these particular chips were changed by radio wave, rendering the chips worthless.

Since the tags are passive, it is unfortunately impossible to use the RFID technology to track down stolen chips from afar.