Why Use ‘Chips’ in Casinos?

You may think casino chips are no different from any other poker chip, but these are made very specially, and often bear no resemblance to those used at home or in other private games. Chips in casinos were developed and perfected gradually, usually in response to cheating or security issues. The chips originally substituted for the haphazard monetary tokens used in poker games in American bars and river-boats around the mid-19th century. While those could have been anything from random coins to gold nuggets, clay custom poker chips eventually became the standard choice in casinos.

These chips were first made of various materials such as wood or ivory, but the casino poker chips of a clay-based composition soon came to predominate. These were made in high-pressure compression-molding machines. In recent times, though clay-ceramic mixtures are still used to create some chips, the more usual production method involves injection-molded resin chips. And a recent innovation in the design of casino chips involves either a metal center with a plastic rim, or chips entirely of metal. The standardization makes chips easier to stack on a table, easier to keep track of, and easier to count (or weigh) when it comes time to cash in a player’s winnings.

Security has always been uppermost in the design of casino chips. It was easy for players to cheat at the beginning, with everyone sneaking their own chips into games, but finally casinos created their own custom designed chips for all players to use, and this helped cut back on the problem. They incorporated artwork and custom colors into their own casino chip designs. And more recently, technology has allowed them to place markings on the chips that will show up under UV light, or to embed radio frequency ID tags that make the chips easier to track and next to impossible to counterfeit.

However, despite all the security improvements, it may be technology that spells the end for casino chips. Token-counting machines have already automated some of the process, taking in the chips and spitting out a receipt to take to the cash window. The next step, with which a few casinos are already experimenting, may be inevitable, which is to use a pre-paid money card and have a card reader installed right at the gaming table. If this catches on, then the casino poker chip might eventually disappear, leaving behind nothing but a long, and in some cases, an almost legendary history.

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