Are Casino Chips Microchipped?


We’re pretty sure you don’t have any plans on following the footsteps of Danny Ocean or Anthony Carleo, and you’re only doing this for your research. After all, a casino chip is the only currency that you can use upon entering their premises. So, you must know what that coin-like plastic can and can’t do, right?

An RFID tag is an expensive technology to embed in every casino chip. Despite this, many casinos still use them as an anti-counterfeiting measure and for monitoring. Chips that have this technology are impossible to duplicate because they monitor each chip in a centralized network within the casino.

Not every casino has this technology, though. Some rely on a variety of anti-counterfeiting measures and practices to keep their businesses safe. We’ll discuss microchips in casino chips in great detail, together with some of the technologies that they use to prevent fraud within their premises.

Casino chips are mostly microchipped.
Many casino chips are micro chipped. Not all though. Many of the $1 – $10 value chips are not micro chipped.

The Security of a Casino Chip

Most of the games that you’ll play in a casino will require you to have chips: poker, blackjack, baccarat, roulette, etc. Since players use it as their currency when playing, a casino needs to have enough in circulation to support its activities at any given time. More chips mean more money, so it’s safe to assume that there are millions of chips changing hands every night, right?

Casino chips may look the same, but different regulations and operating procedures make it easier for them to monitor these chips. The most common is that a casino chip loses its value as soon as you leave their premises. You can however take the chips out of the casino, but be careful as they might expire before you return back and want to cash them in. Casinos are not allowed to accept a chip from another casino, and you can’t use it to pay for anything. The only place where it has real value is within the casino where it came from; exchange it at the counter for cash.

This basic regulation presents a considerable risk for casinos because if these are just plastic tokens, almost anyone can replicate it. As long as you know the chips’ exact specifications, you can literally be “molding” casino money. Casinos have everything figured out, though, because they have several anti-counterfeiting measures to prevent fraud, including the use of microchips, or chips within their chips

Why Do Casinos Use Microchips?

Installing RFID tags may only cost around $2.50 per chip, but the massive number of chips that each casino has can easily cost tens of millions of dollars. That’s why only the biggest casinos have this anti-counterfeiting measure in every chip that they have. Wynn and Encore are two of the most notable casinos that have this technology in their chips.

However, the most significant ROI on this investment is probably with Bellagio’s chips. It helped them track a robber, named Anthony Carleo, who, almost, got away with $1.5 million worth of chips. Carleo successfully brought home the chips but went back to Bellagio to cash-in. Unfortunately, the casino already associated all of the chips in his possession with theft.

Thanks to the RFID tags within the chips, Bellagio was able to track down every chip that Carleo stole and make it worthless before he could get anything. Aside from security, a casino can take advantage of a microchip’s ability to transmit data accurately. It can help them track a chip’s movement, which helps them in a lot of ways, including the following:

rfid tag in poker chips
RFID tags help in tracking individual poker chips.
  • RFID tags can help the casino track an individual accurately. Once you get your hands on a casino chip with a microchip, the casino can track all of your movements. It transmits every data the casino needs, including how much you’ve played, how much you’ve won or lost, and if you’re engaging in suspicious activities.
  • The casino will know the best time to offer you complimentary drinks. These “complementaries of the house” aren’t really for free. They serve a higher purpose than keeping you cozy while playing. Knowing the perfect time for your complimentary drinks is crucial to keeping you longer at the table.
  • They can use it to monitor how their dealers handle each transaction. Players aren’t the only ones they’re keeping an eye on because dealers are also prone to fraudulent transactions. However, with RFID tags, the casino can pinpoint dealers who aren’t handling transactions properly.
  • Accurately disable the chips to prevent fraudulent transactions. Aside from the potential of cashing out illegally acquired chips, it also helps the casino minimize any attempts to beat their system. Once a chip is associated with theft or fraud, the chips become worthless, as proven with the Anthony Carleo incident.

There are several perks that a casino can get from installing microchips in casino chips. Although not all casinos have this technology, due to the cost of installing them, more and more casinos are looking at it to help them keep their system secure. So, the answer to your question is yes—casino chips are microchipped.

In some casinos, only the high-value chips have RFID tags because it can be costly to lose them. However, the low-value chips still have various security technologies installed. So it’s unlikely for someone to take advantage of it and start counterfeiting casino chips, instead of trying to beat the house. 

Casino Chips’ Various Anti-Counterfeiting Measures

Low-value poker chips aren't micro chipped.
Instead of using micro chips, the low-value chips have other securities in place that don’t cost so much.

One of the pillars of a casino’s economy is its chips; it represents the majority of the money in circulation at any given time. So they need to make it as secure as possible to protect their business from fraudulent transactions. Aside from using RFID tags to accurately monitor their chips, here are other anti-counterfeiting measures that casinos use:

  • Holographic technology is what some casinos use for their low-value chips. It makes the chips harder and more expensive to replicate, and since these are of low-value, it won’t really be profitable to get in the business of counterfeiting it.
  • The use of UV inks as a security feature is also a common practice. It’s invisible to the naked eye but shows under UV light. Newly painted chips will show differently under it, so no one can repaint a low-value chip then turn it into the highest denomination that a casino has.
  • Microstamping and embedding of high-resolution quality artwork is another way for casinos to make it harder for people to replicate or counterfeit their chips. In the event of massive fraud, casinos can simply decommission all of its chips, then produce another batch to prevent the perpetrators from cashing out their chips.
  • Sophisticated surveillance systems are the most common way for casinos to monitor their floors. It’s so advanced that it flags people in the “blacklist” as soon as they enter the premises. It also gives the casino a bird’s eye view of everything that’s happening on the floor, making it easier for them to track all the activities and prevent any attempts to commit fraud.
  • Poker Chips have an expiration date. You might be surprised, but poker chips do expire. There are several reasons why casinos do that. You can find about why in this article.

Conclusion

Casino chips are microchipped, but installing them in every denomination can be costly for a small casino. Although almost every high-value chip has its RFID tag to prevent fraudulent transactions, low-value chips often have a different security feature to make it harder for people to counterfeit.

Aside from preventing theft and fraud, it also helps the casino monitor all of the activities within its premises. They can then use it to their advantage to keep everyone, especially the high-rollers, entertained, and keep them on the table longer.

As RFID tagging technology improves, it becomes cheaper for a casino to embed it in every chip. So, it’s safe to say that whenever you enter a casino and get a hold on one of their chips, you have to be the “good client” they’re expecting.

Related Articles

Primoz

I have played poker professionally for more than 10 years. I was a winner at every poker format that I played - from tournaments to cash games, both in NL Holdem and PLO. Now my biggest satisfaction is to provide enthusiastic but new poker players with answers to all of their questions.

Recent Content