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You've heard the stories if you've been around casinos long enough. Someone takes a handful of casino chips and notices they feel a little light. They look at them closely and realize they aren't what they appear to be.
These days, counterfeiting casino chips isn't quite that easy. Casinos use advanced technology and security methods to protect their chips from counterfeiters. But knowing a few tips for spotting suspicious chips and keeping your winnings safe doesn't hurt either. The best thing you can do is use your best judgment.
Note: Fake casino chips are only found in land-based casinos. Online casino games such as roulette, blackjack, and baccarat use virtual chips which cannot be counterfeited.
If you're ever unsure whether or not a chip is genuine, use one or more of these seven methods to verify its authenticity.
One of the more obvious methods for determining a chip’s authenticity is observing the feel and weight of the chip. If you notice any differences between two or more chips, this may be a sign that one of these is fake. Additionally, if a chip feels heavier than it should or is made of a cheaper material (like plastic), then this could also indicate a fake chip.
The tricky part here is that there is no standard weight for casino chips, and it all depends on the manufacturer and the material used in their construction. It would be best to compare the weight of the suspected fake chip to chips that you know are authentic.
If you can't determine from the weight of the chip whether it's real or not, the colour can usually give a clue. Counterfeiters often use paint that doesn't match the colour used by casinos. Because the perfect shade of colour is difficult to duplicate, counterfeiters will have a difficult time getting it exactly, and so fake chips’ colour will be slightly different from authentic chips.
That might not seem all that relevant when looking at one chip on its own. But if you put several chips of the same colour together, you'll soon notice when one stands out from the crowd, helping dealers and croupiers spot the fakes.
Check for imperfections like colour bleeding or smears on your suspect chip. Genuine casino chips are always clean and crisp with no imperfections. But with counterfeit chips, the colour can even bleed onto other chips.
The edge spot design is one of the easiest ways to separate counterfeits from real ones. If you look closely at a real casino chip, you will see either multiple colours or some pattern on the edging. Counterfeiters will often try to copy the edge spots, but they won't have the same colour and design–at least not perfectly.
Casinos once primarily used the clay compression method for making their chips, but that played right into the hands of counterfeiters. Because of this, casinos started using a combination of ABS plastic and clay to make their chips even harder to copy.
This process has unique "knurling" wheels that press against the mould, creating unique designs around the chip. It is difficult to imitate perfectly, and leading manufacturers can only do this.
Aside from having a unique colour scheme and design, authentic casino chips will also have a set of markings that include the casino name, denomination, and other identifying features. If you’re trying to tell if a casino chip is real, look for these unique identifiers. If you don’t see any—you may have counterfeit chips.
Most casinos also use special inks for chip markings that are difficult to duplicate. Closely inspect the ink stamps used on your suspect chip, since fake chips will often have fuzzy or distorted stampings that aren't clear and sharp the way that they are on real chips.
One way to tell if a casino chip is real is by using ultraviolet (UV) light. Manufacturers create real casino chips using specially designed imprinting processes that include UV inks. So, if you put the chip under UV light and the markings don’t appear, then that chip may be a counterfeit.
It is important to note that while this test is a good indicator, it can be inconsistent in some cases. In general, even older chips should work with this method of authentication. But since each manufacturer produces chips differently, some chips may not react as expected when exposed to black light.
Casino chips have several built-in security features that make them difficult to counterfeit. One of the most sophisticated authentication methods is RFID (Radio Frequency Identification) tags, which manufacturers embed within the chip. RFID tags contain information readable by radio waves, similar to those found in credit cards and passports.
While not all chips are RFID-enabled, many of the modern ones are. This security feature is important because casinos can program chips with RFID technology to only work in certain machines. It also allows casinos to track high-value chips in real-time, which helps prevent counterfeiting.
Lastly, most modern casino chips are marked with a hologram, and they're difficult— if not impossible to copy exactly. They're also often embedded in the chip itself, so they don't wear away as stickers or labels do.
The hologram should be located in a visible spot on one side of the chip and make a 3D image when viewed from different angles. If the chip has no hologram, it may be fake or from an older casino that doesn't use them.
While there isn't a fool-proof “trick” to tell if a casino chip is real, this article has outlined 7 of the best identifiers. The best way to tell is by going through each of these 7 ways. If a chip fails several of these “tests”, there’s a good chance it’s a counterfeit.
If you’re worried you may have inauthentic chips, you should ask the casino to verify the authenticity of the chips you have. You do not want to end up with counterfeit chips in your bankroll, or accidentally turn them in as credit.