Casino chips are considered a form of currency, and the act of people creating counterfeit chips to steal money from casinos is always going to be a problem. Casinos have always been aware of such risks and have in turn put efforts to prevent any losses arising from such risks.

Properties of Real Casino Chips

Every casino has its own unique set of chips, even if it is part of a larger company, and the chips have various security features. These features may include simple factors such as complicated high-resolution artwork, highly specialized markings, and distinct color combinations. Other chips have advanced technology incorporated in them such as the use of the ultra-violet markings or the RFID.

The general myth is that for a chip to be official, it must weigh 11.5 grams. Actually, you can find the casino chips across the top casinos on the Las Vegas strip weighing between 8.5 and 10.6 grams. Also, either clay or ceramic is used to make chips.

The highly specialized markings of chips on each casino indicate where they are from. You can think of the markings as a currency marking since the chips are accepted money in the land of casinos. With that in mind, it is important to note that, although there can be limits, some casinos will cash “foreign” chips, especially if the same operator owns them. Therefore, chips without any casino logo are flagged as a counterfeit straight away.

At one time, each casino was allowed to use their colors to represent the various chip values, but over the years, the color-coding has become standard. Blue or white chips are $1, red chips also called nickels are $5, green chips also called quarters are $25, black chips are $100, and purple chips also called Barneys is $500 while the orange chips also called pumpkins are worth $1,000. There are actually more shades of each of these colors than you thought; therefore, even if all casinos might have red $5 chips, the exact shade can be dissimilar so much that it would be hard for the counterfeiters to match.

In addition, the colors are not only used to show values and discourage fakers, but are also used to denote table limits on signs for the table games. A green sign indicates a $25 minimum wager compared to a black sign with a $100 minimum bet.

How Easy is it to Rob a Casino?

At some point, many gamblers innocently wonder how easy or difficult it can be to rob a casino by making counterfeit chips. The truth is, it is not easy to create counterfeit casino chips the same way it is also not easy to create counterfeit money since specialized equipment are used to manufacture the chips. However, if one does manage to create the counterfeit chips, getting away with it is not as simple as with counterfeit money. This is because casinos have developed measures to ensure that this does not happen at all.

It is also important to know that it is hard to get away with using counterfeit chips over counterfeit money in casinos since every casino employee is trained to identify counterfeit chips and very few of them are actually trained – or even care enough- to recognize a fake currency.
How do Casino’s Recognize Counterfeit Chips?

As you can see, counterfeiting casino chips are a hard task since each chip is an exact color, design, and weight and they are normally marked using special ink that can be seen only under UV rays. In addition, the recently developed RFID technology helps most casinos to track high-value chips; therefore, the chips that you could only really try to counterfeit are the ones worth $25 or less. The technology employs tracking devices embedded in the chips and can be useful when someone tries to counterfeit or steal them, or otherwise cheat the system.

Other than being used as a security measure, these chips also help the casinos to monitor the activity at every different table games, keeping tabs on how much each table is losing or making as well as ensuring that the dealers are correctly handling the transactions. This way, it makes it harder for counterfeiters to pass off the fake chips to the dealer hoping that they mix into the pot.

It is also important to note that having such surveillance all over the casino floors makes these casinos all-seeing and all-knowing. This way, they can literally track every player like the ones who cashed in huge amounts of money by following their chips and ensuring that the money they cash out is the right amount.

Other than the physical deterrents, many casinos make use of several operating procedures that help them manage counterfeit risks. Many of these casinos have a set of chips in reserve with a backup design, which can be used to swap the old chips from the casino floors. Many jurisdictions require casinos to have these backup chips in reserve and are proving to be quite useful.

For instance, back in 2011, Bellagio, a resort and luxury hotel and casino on the Las Vegas Strip, was robbed of $1.5million of casino chips. However, about half an hour after the robbery, the casino managed to swap the chips out, rendering the stolen ones virtually worthless.

In addition, casinos are not required to cash out any of their chips if they suspect the one cashing them out is not the actual owner of the chips. For instance, when a stripper tries to cash out $1,000 chips given to them as a tip, it can sometimes be rejected in order to prevent cases of money laundering.

The data available that shows how extensive the casino chip counterfeiting problem is minimal. Many states get about a dozen complaints every year that relate to counterfeit chips. The countermeasures the casinos employ as well as the heavy penalties by regulators have ensured that the financial losses resulting from counterfeit chips are small and very few criminals are able to get away with it.

What happens if you are caught in the Act?

In spite of all the security measures and protections put in place by the casinos, there are still those who attempt to pass off counterfeit chips as the real ones. If caught in the act, it can set you up for various felony charges, including manufacturing and possessing a cheating device and burglary. The crime can carry a penalty of up to 6 years in prison per count; therefore, it is not worth it at all, especially if the chips you were caught passing off are the low-value ones of $5 or $25. Dealers and cashiers maintain that it is much easier to counterfeit currency compared to casinos chips. Therefore, it should be easier to think of a different area of crime.

What to do if you find one

The smartest thing to do in this situation is to return the chip to the casino, be it real or fake, and explain what happened. This is because the “finder’s keepers” policy does not normally apply for chips as it is for money. This is because most casinos have rules that state that any lost and found chip whose ownership is unclear belongs to the casino. Therefore, picking one on the floor and cashing it out is equivalent to stealing and can even lead to your removal or banning or stronger penalties.

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Richard Holmes was born in Tampa, Florida and studied computer science at Pensacola Christian College in Pensacola Florida. A devout Baptist, volunteer Sunday School teacher and online gaming fan, Richard works as a part-time systems administrator at Baptist Hospital and part-time professional blogger specializing in statistics, probability and computer science issues. He is an ardent believer in the future of artificial intelligence as a tool for transforming human society for the better, particularly in the area of health care and modern medicine. A chess player, and competitive online gamer Richard actively participates on online gaming tournaments in his free time.