You might think casino chips would be an easy mark for counterfeiters. Unlike money, they’re just disks with simple designs on them, right?
Casino chips represent significant amounts of money, so, like legal tender, a huge amount of effort goes into making sure they can’t be copied or faked.
What Security Measures Are Manufactured into Casino Chips?
Like money, casino chips are constructed by high-security fabricators using highly confidential materials, processes, and security features built into each chip. Casino chips are made from a clay composite. A printed inlay is fused to the chip, and the whole thing is coated in plastic. The printed inlay, which contains a number of security features, cannot be removed from the chip without destroying the entire chip.
These security features include:
- Serial numbers
- Microprinting (microscopic printing)
- Ultraviolet inks (inks only visible under ultraviolet light)
- Infrared inks (inks only visible under infrared)
- Heat-sensitive inks
- Precise alignment of edge prints to face prints
- Ultraviolet fibers in the paper
- Laser etching
The casino chip also may contain an RFID chip that allows the unit to be identified and tracked. While this is relatively uncommon presently, pretty soon all casinos will have RFID chips.
How Do Casinos Prevent Counterfeit Chips from Being Cashed?
As with counterfeit money, an inside person or a skilled forger may be able to get very close to a passable counterfeit chip – not perfect, but close enough to fool someone who is inexperienced or not looking closely enough. The other difficulty is getting someone to cash the chip. In that respect, the security is even more intimidating.
You can’t just walk into a casino and mosey on up to a cashier with a fistful of chips. They’ll wonder where all those chips magically came from.
- First, casinos monitor the chips very carefully. They know the chips coming in, going out, and the total number – particularly high-value ones – on the floor.
- Casinos also monitor the players very carefully. Dealers, floor security, closed-circuit television – all are trained on the move of every player. It’s very difficult to slip counterfeit chips into the game play. Not impossible, but very difficult.
- Casinos monitor high-value chips and their players even more carefully. In fact, the casinos know exactly who has ever had a high-value chip. If you have a high-value chip and the casino doesn’t know you, get ready for a very long
- Most states require casinos to have a set of alternate chips ready to deploy if counterfeits show up on the floor or if chips are stolen. It takes only about half an hour to completely switch out all the chips on the floor.
- Finally, by law all casinos are allowed to refuse to cash out chips for any reason if they suspect the chips are fake or stolen. They can hold these chips for as much time as it takes to verify their authenticity – chip by chip. Only the most flawless counterfeiter can get past the casino’s verification process.
What Do Casinos Do with Counterfeiters?
In law enforcement, the only proven way to effectively prevent crime is swift and credible punishment. If someone knows they’re going to get caught and punished, they’ll find something else to do. Casinos prevent counterfeiting by making it nearly impossible to pass counterfeit chips and by making sure anyone caught doing so pays a high price. But if you’re imagining handcuffs and meat lockers, you’re thinking the old days of mobster-run casinos portrayed in movies.
Casinos are run by legitimate, large corporations. Crimes committed on the premises of a large corporation are much more likely to result in a conviction, less likely to be plea bargained, and often apt to result in much longer prison sentences than the same crime committed anywhere else. Steal a purse on the street, probation. Steal a purse in a casino, five years.
All large corporations have a vested interest in making sure this is true. They have extensive financial resources (aka deep pockets) and staffs of powerful lawyers to make sure any criminal caught on their premises does time. A lot of time.
Is It Possible to Accidentally Get a Counterfeit Casino Chip?
This is not a stupid question.
Counterfeiters or thieves can make money selling counterfeit or stolen chips directly to players . . . on-site or off. If you search “casino chips” on eBay, around 30,000 sale items pop up. There you’ll find $50 chips for auction for as low as $1 each. Good deal, right? Keep in mind that if you slip a counterfeit or stolen chip in a casino, you’re the one who will face the consequences. The rule is simple: only buy chips from the casino in the casino. Then there’s no chance of receiving a counterfeit or stolen chip. If you are offered chips from someone else. . . don’t take them.