Place your bets on RFID

Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) technology is being used to track everything from border crossings, cattle, blood samples, beer, and other consumer products. The latest application for RFID is in casinos and bars, two environments that could substantially benefit from tracking technology to cut losses and prevent counterfeiting.

Holland Casino, with 14 casinos, is the largest casino operator in the Netherlands. In late 2006, they purchased 950,000 RFID-embedded chips from Gaming Partners International Corporation, one of the world’s largest manufacturers of gaming chips.

“With the new RFID chips Holland Casino feels very confident regarding security issues right now and in the near future,” says Amber C. Ho-a-Sjoe, Vice President Product Management Holland Casino. 

Holland Casino is not alone. Already, the Galaxy Star World casino in Macau, the Wynn casino, and the Hard Rock Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas, are using chips with embedded RFID transmitters to try to stamp out casino chip fraud – in other words counterfeiting. 

Different frequencies
RFID-enabled chips will prevent people taking the chips outside of the casino, a problem casinos have traditionally had and been unable to resolve. It also lets dealers, or cashiers, see when the value of the chips in front of them do not match the scanners’ tally. 

Gaming chips are available in both a low frequency (125 KHz) and a newer high-frequency (13.56 MHz) version. The newer technology offers a higher level of security, as it is more difficult to forge. Information can also be written right onto the chips, whereas the 125 KHz technology is read only.

According to chip producer Dolphin Products, the high-frequency version is capable of processing data eight times faster than the low-frequency technology and also has a larger memory capacity – over 10,000 bits. 

Keep them playing
While the simple authentication of chips is still the current killer application for RFID at the poker table, the technology will also allow for more sophisticated player tracking and table management systems in the future. 

RFID-enabled chips will allow casinos to monitor betting activity much more accurately. RFID could be used to give casinos a more accurate tool to rate players with, for example, to see how much they are betting and how to lavish perks on them. A rule of thumb in the casino business is to keep players playing. 

With slot machines, which generate almost 80 percent of a casino’s revenue, casinos have made a science in the last ten years of keeping customers interested with a constant stream of rewards and freebies. 

“We are trying to bring that same kind of thinking to table games,” says Bart Pestrichello, vice president of casino operations at the Hard Rock Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas. “And that is to reward players on their actual bets and decisions.” 

Gerard Charlier, President and CEO of Gaming Partners International Corporation, sees a change coming: “We believe that within the next ten years, RFID-embedded casino currency will be the norm around the world, and that casinos will look back on the time before RFID as the dark ages of player tracking and anti-fraud efforts.” 

While at the casino bar…
RFID is also being rolled out in the bars. In June 2006, the Las Vegas Treasure Island casino and hotel installed an RFID liquor tracking system at four of its bars. The Beverage Tracker, supplied by Capton, a San Francisco-based provider of liquor-monitoring technology, uses RFID in the bottle spouts to communicate to a computer how much liquor is dispensed. 

The RFID chip is embedded in the liquor spout and is activated when pouring a drink. In addition to checking how much and at what time liquor is poured, the system can track inventory for the bar owner, which has traditionally been a manual task. 

According to Capton’s website, liquor waste in the US alone – free drinks, over pouring, and theft – is a USD 7 billion problem. With RFID every drop can be accounted for.     

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