How Do Casinos Pinpoint Counterfeit Gambling Chips?

counterfeit casino chips image
Casino Chips. Image Credit: Shutterstock

Casino chips are the official currency of casinos and are often susceptible to counterfeiters looking for security loopholes through which they can distribute fake tokens.

Casinos use chips to streamline payments and gameplay.  By eliminating cash from the tables, the transactions become safer for the players and the casino, as well as more fast-tracked.  However, the possibility of fraudsters creating counterfeit chips has always represented a risk for casinos.  To limit the threat of forgeries, most casinos have put in place mechanisms that would allow them to spot counterfeit chips quickly.

Characteristics of Genuine Casino Chips

Every casino has its unique set of chips that contain security features such as high-resolution artwork, specialised ultraviolet markings, and distinct colour combinations.  Chips are usually made from clay or ceramics and generally weigh between 8,5 and 10,6 grams.

The highly specialised chip markings indicate where the chips are from. However, some casinos will cash “imported” chips, especially if the same operator owns the different casinos where they come from. Therefore, chips without a casino logo are identified as counterfeit straight away.

Today, there is a standard colour-coding used for chips. White or blue chips are CA$1, red chips (nickels) are CA$5, green chips (quarters) are CA$25, black chips are CA$100, purple chips (Barneys) are CA$500, while orange chips (pumpkins) are worth CA$1,000.

Moreover, the colours are not only used to display values and discourage fakers but also help denote table limits on signs for table games. A green sign indicates a CA$25 minimum wager compared to a black sign with a CA$100 minimum bet.

Is it Easy to Defraud a Casino?

Creating counterfeit casino chips is as tricky as making fake money since specialised equipment is used to manufacture the chips. However, if one does manage to create a counterfeit chip, getting away with it is not simple since casinos have developed measures to ensure this does not happen in the first place.

It is also important to note that it is harder to get away with counterfeit chips than counterfeit money since every casino employee is trained to spot fake chips.  On the other hand, few are trained to recognise fake currency.

How do Casino’s Recognise Counterfeit Chips?

Counterfeiting casino chips is complex since each chip is the exact same colour, weight, and design, and has ultraviolet markings. Additionally, casinos have recently begun using RFID technology, which uses tracking devices embedded in the chips.

RFID chips also help monitor the activity at every table, reporting back how much money each table is making. This makes it harder for fraudsters to pass the fake chips to the dealer with the hope that they blend into the pot.  The technology also helps track every player, like those who cash in huge amounts of money, by following their casino chips and ensuring that the money cashed out is the right amount.

Also, many casinos have a set of chips in reserve with a backup design that can be used to switch all the old chips from the casino floor. Many jurisdictions require these backup chips in reserve, and this requirement is proving to be quite useful.

For instance, in 2011, Bellagio, a luxury hotel and casino resort on the Las Vegas Strip, was robbed of US$1,5 million worth of casino chips. However, about 30 minutes after the theft, the casino managed to swop all its remaining chips, practically rendering the stolen ones worthless.

Also, casinos are not required to cash out any chips if they suspect the person cashing them is not the owner of the chips. For instance, if a stripper tries to cash out US$1,000 worth of chips given to them as a tip, the transaction might be rejected to prevent a possibility of money laundering.

There is a limited amount of data showing the extent of the casino chip counterfeiting problem. Most provinces get a handful of complaints each year relating to counterfeit chips. The countermeasures the casinos have put in place and the heavy penalties imposed by regulators ensure that the financial losses resulting from forged chips are limited, and a small number of criminals get away with it.

Picture of Bojan Lipovic - Digital Project Manager

Bojan Lipovic - Digital Project Manager

Besides polishing his SEO skills, Bojan has a penchant for creative writing. With over half a decade of experience in the online gambling industry under his belt, his written take on the latest news from the Canadian and global gambling industries is an indispensable source of information for the CASINOenquirer team. Bojan’s primary goal is to ensure that players get a superior experience through the top-notch content that he shares.

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