The Evolution of the Casino Chip
Picture this: you’ve just touched down in Las Vegas for the start of your vacation and you are greeted by the site of gambling. It’s unlikely you’ll be able to avoid the casinos and the other visitors looking to take home multiple winnings throughout your time in Sin City. As you experience the different casinos available on the Strip, have you ever stopped to wonder how the casino chip came about? Well, get ready for a journey through the world of gaming in the Entertainment Capital of the World, and understand more about how currency was decided for the 40+ casinos available to you on the Las Vegas Strip.
Where did the casino chip come from?
As you hear the clinking sound of chips you can’t help but associated the Las Vegas lights and action! In the beginning, when the first gaming venue was opened in Venice around the 17th century, the gaming world was run by cash for nearly 200 years. Cash as a currency was how it began, but it was during the Gold Rush days of the West when gamers of chance began to use gold and silver nuggets, gold dust, metal tokens, and chips made of ivory as their “bank” for wagering purposes.
As poker players began to grow in number, the use of ivory chips and gold nuggets became much easier to forge, encouraging establishments to brand their own chips and develop a common denominator across all gaming platforms. Once different gambling locations began to develop their own unique brands, it was during the 1880s when they began to manufacture the uniform design of the poker chip. This involved a circular design across all gambling currency made up of compressed sand and clay.
Throughout the years, color was incorporated in the new design to help overcome the confusion of different currency exchange at the tables. As the common look of the poker chip was developed, it was then spread to other gaming options such as blackjack, craps, faro, and roulette. When casino gambling was legalized in Nevada in the 1930s, casino owners were better prepared for the high volume of gamblers with the new currency established and set in place.
How has the casino chip design changed?
The majority of poker chips exchanged in the gaming world are created from a composite that includes clay, but, in the end, is a much more durable version of clay. A variety of Las Vegas casinos also consist of ceramic chips, similar to the currency used for a poker game held at your home. But, how has the design changed throughout the years? How did casinos decide on the colors and all the minor features of these small tokens to make them so intriguing to gamblers?
In the beginning, some of the earliest casino chips only consisted of ivory and a printed face value, and a step in the correct direction when it came to the poker currency. Chips across the board were different when it came to size and material from location to location, and in terms of size, bigger was always better. As time went on, the variety of tokens available as currency were still too easy for individuals to forge. With the 20th century came the opportunity to develop chips with the use of high pressure machinery and a standardized chip size was developed. This casino chip size, across the board today, is 39mm in diameter with a weight ranging from 8.5 grams to 20.5 grams. With the chip size set in stone, this only left branding as a factor to differentiate between the variety of casino chips from one casino floor to another.
The difference in branding throughout the Las Vegas Casinos depends on a variety of factors. The majority of Las Vegas Strip Hotels are ruled by two major players – MGM and Caesars. This develops a strong foundation to begin the branding process. The rest of the design is decided from an assortment of options, such as, color preference, logo, amount, and what is appealing to the players. As you make your way through the casinos on the Strip and in the downtown area, take a glance at the variety of chips being exchanged on the floor and see just how enticing these small tokens of currency can be.
How often do casinos switch out their chips?
With the high volume of visitors making their way to Las Vegas, it is difficult to frequently switch out the chips used at the casinos. When it comes to revamping the specific casino chips and refreshing their supply of currency, locations tend to only change out their chips every few years based on security reasons and to keep up with the world of gaming.
During the process of casinos switching out their old chips for new chips, a “grace period” is normally in place where casinos will honor the withdrawn chips before doing away with them all together. Before the updated chips can start being manufactured, and before they can make their way to the casino floor, they must be pre-approved by the Gaming Control Board after the design and security features are laid out for review.
Back in the day, when old casino chips were not being used anymore casino owners did not know what to do with the outdated tokens. Many were disposed of right into Lake Mead (some can still be found by divers today) and some were even mixed in with concreate to help develop the foundations of old establishments. Today, chips can only be destroyed by the Gaming Control Board-approved disposal companies. The old tokens due for destruction are then loaded into a security equipped truck and then crushed into dust, all witnessed by a gaming regulator.
What is the future for casino chips?
The future of casino chips is still up in the air and has a possibility of changing any day. Some people believe with the modern modifications of everyday life, casino tokens have the opportunity of taking a more digital form through the use of electronic devices. With that being said, for poker, blackjack, roulette, and other table games, gamblers enjoy the physical look and feel of the easily spotted casino chips. Simply put, players like to see how much money they have or don’t have physically in front of them. So don’t worry. Las Vegas and Club de Soleil visitors can expect to see casino chips around for many days to come.