RFIDing the future

Steve Wynn has seen the future, and it’s spelled R-F-I-D. When Wynn Las Vegas opens in April, it will have the latest in casino chips–high tech checks with radio frequency ID tags inside them.

From C-Net News:

Casino mogul Steve Wynn has pulled out all the stops for his new $2.7 billion mega-resort in Las Vegas: an 18-hole championship golf course, a private lake and mountain, and a bronze tower housing 2,700 plush guest rooms.

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.

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.

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.

Vegas casino bets on RFID | CNET News.com

First off, for all of you Duke Ellington afficianados out there, C-Net News rhymes with “C-Jam Blues.” How about that?

Second, this is just another step in the routinization of the casino environment. As I said in Suburban Xanadu, the casino floor is ironically the most predictable place most people ever see. Being able precisely tabulate table bets is just the next level.

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