February 9, 2005 4:00 AM PST
Vegas casino bets on RFID
But when its doors open in April, the Wynn Las Vegas will have one unique feature that few visitors are likely to notice--high-tech betting chips designed to deter counterfeiting, card-counting and other bad behavior.
The fancy new chips look just like regular ones, only they contain radio devices that signal secret serial numbers. Special equipment linked to the casino's computer systems and placed throughout the property will identify legitimate chips and detect fakes, said Rick Doptis, vice president of table games for the Wynn.
Betting chips are getting a high-tech RFID makeover designed to deter counterfeiting and misbehavior at the tables.
Despite this, RFID technology is still relatively rare in casinos--until that killer application arrives.
"Security-wise, it will be huge for us," Doptis said.
The technology behind these chips is known as radio frequency identification, or RFID, and it's been used for years to track livestock, enable employee security badges and pay tolls.
The casino industry is just the latest to find new uses for RFID technology. Retail chains, led by Wal-Mart Stores, are using it to monitor merchandise. Libraries are incorporating it into book collections to speed checkouts and re-shelving. The United States and other nations are incorporating it into passports to catch counterfeits. One company even offers to inject people with RFID chips linked to their medical records to ensure they receive proper medical care.
In casinos, RFID technology is still relatively rare and in search of a killer application to spur adoption. Yet some tech-savvy casino executives envision RFID transforming the way they operate table games, including blackjack, craps and roulette, over the next four or five years.
For one thing, there's the counterfeiting problem, on which there is scant data. The Nevada Gaming Commission gets about a dozen complaints every year related to counterfeit chips, said Keith Copher, the agency's chief of enforcement. Last year, a casino in Reno quickly lost $26,000 in such a scheme--one of the biggest hits reported to the commission in recent years. And counterfeiting is on the rise at overseas casinos, Copher noted. The RFID technology would let dealers or cashiers see when the value of the chips in front of them don't match the scanners' tally.
However, financial losses due to counterfeit chips are usually minor, and few perpetrators get away with it, Copher said.Perhaps that's why the Wynn has found a dual purpose for the high-tech chips: The casino is also using the chips to help account for the chips they issue on credit to players, since managing credit risk is a huge part of any big casino's operations.
The Wynn plans to take note of the serial numbers of the chips they lend and of the name of players who cash them in. If someone else
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