It is so hard to believe there was a time during games like poker, chips were not used like they are now. It would probably almost look alien to us now. When people sat around tables at bars or saloons, they would use whatever items they had that were of value. These things would be anything from high-end wood, and ivory, to obscure things like gold dust.
But this was not always fair use, because they could always be stolen or get lost in the middle of fights. Or with the side of someone with crafty hands. So the owners of the bars and saloons started creating a system of chips made of lower end wood or even of clay. Then to keep the fighting down, the establishment would hold onto the valuable items, and at the end of the evening, each person at the poker table would turn in their chips for what the establishment had of equal value.
Of course, when the saloons and bars started using chips, to represent monetary value, there is always someone else out there trying to get one up and take more than what they put in. People would try to make counterfeit versions of the chips and try to cash in on them. So when the establishments would catch wind of the illegal doings the bars and saloons would put special marks on their chips so to lessen the chance of that happening.
So when they got smarter at protecting their assets, criminals would always try to be smarter than the establishments. If they can’t make an accurate counter fits of the tokens, then lest just steal them. Sometimes criminals would try to either break-in after they were closed and take the chips, or while in broad daylight take a bunch of the chips.
If the places could figure out which of the majority of their chips that were taken, they would quickly go out and change the design of their chips so that when the robbers came back, the chips would be only as valuable as the material they were printed on, instead of their face value. If you haven’t heard it before now, the house always wins.
As casinos change so does the technology they have at their disposal. They were sure to jump on the wagon when security cameras became available. So when chips became small enough to be slipped into a casino chip, pretty much giving the owner of the casino a life history of the chip, they used those too. With that kind of information that can be held on a chip like that, it seems almost impossible for the chips to be stolen.
A would-be robber would try to slip into a casino and take the chips, thinking he could just take them, hold onto the chips, and cash them in at a later date. But when a robber takes those chips, the company takes all their chips and runs them through a scanner, so they know which chips were taken. The stolen chips don’t change at all, so the robber would come back, thinking he pulled a fast one, would just have a pocket full of clay on him. They never know, maybe the guy at the next window cashing out his chips is an undercover cop. With technology making all their advances smaller and smaller. Who knows what kind of information those little chips could share with the owner of the casino.
Not only do chips help the casino keep track of the value of what the customer is owed, they make it easier for the owners to keep their employees safe as well. We all have heard of some of the germs and other substances found on money. Well with that kind of thing being traded around at a casino, an employee could very easily become sick or get something worse than the flu. So by converting in house currency to chips, they can help keep things safer for the employees. The chips could very easily be sent through a variety of machines to help sanitize them, so the spread of germs is greatly reduced.
Depending on where you go to gamble, most of those places have records that gambling is the biggest form of income at these locations. So even though criminals try to pull fast ones on the owners, thinking they can make a quick buck at someone else’s expense, the house always wins. When the house always wins, they are always trying to find the next way to keep their money, and employees safe. We can always hope that someday robbers will wise up and stop trying to cheat the system. But what are the chances of that happening?