Casino tokens (also known as chips, checks or cheques) are small discs used in lieu of currency in casinos. Colored metal or compression molded clay tokens of various denominations are used primarily in table games, as opposed to metal token coins, used primarily in slot machines.
Some casinos also use gaming plaques for high stakes table games ($25,000 and above). Plaques differ from chips in that they are larger, usually rectangular in shape and contain serial numbers.
Money is exchanged for tokens in a casino at the casino cage, at the gaming tables, or at a cashier station. The tokens are interchangeable with money at the casino. They generally have no value outside out of the casino, though in Las Vegas, some casinos might honor chips from other casinos.
Tokens are employed for several reasons. They are more convenient to use than currency, and also make theft and counterfeiting more difficult. Because of the uniform size and regularity of stacks of chips, they are easier to count in stacks compared to paper currency when used on a table. This attribute also enables the pit boss or security to quickly verify the amount being paid, reducing the chance that a dealer might incorrectly pay a customer. The uniform weight of the casino's official tokens allows them to weigh large stacks or piles of chips rather than counting them (though counting aids such as chip trays are far more common) Furthermore, it is observed that consumers gamble more freely with replacement currencies than with cash.
Finally, the chips are considered to be an integral part of the casino environment, and replacing them with some alternate currency would be unpopular.
Many casinos are eliminating the use of metal tokens (and coins) in favor of paper receipts and/or pre-paid cards, which, while requiring heavy infrastructure costs to install, eliminate the coin handling expenses and jamming problems encountered in machines which take coins or tokens. While some casinos (such as the Hard Rock Hotel in Las Vegas) which install the receipt system are keeping the $1 tokens to use in place of $1 chips, most other casinos using the receipts are scrapping the tokens entirely. Most casinos using receipts have automated machines at which customers may redeem receipts, eliminating the need for coin counting windows and decreasing labor costs.
A standard 300 piece set of ABS plastic chips
Casino chip collecting is a part of numismatics, more specifically as specialized exonumia collecting. This hobby has become increasingly popular with the Casino Chips & Gaming Tokens Collectors Club formed in 1988. Some chips are worth up to $50,000 and the most popular way to collect and trade is on eBay. Several casinos sell custom-made sets of chips and one or two decks of cards stamped with the name of the casino on them. Each set is contained in a small briefcase or box.
Each casino has a unique set of chips, even if the casino is part of a larger company. This distinguishes a casino's chips from others, since each chip and token on the gaming floor has to be backed up with the appropriate amount of cash. In addition, with the exception of Nevada, casinos are not permitted to honor another casino's chips.
The security features of casino chips are numerous. Artwork is of a very high resolution or of photographic quality. Custom color combinations on the chip edge (edge spots) are usually distinctive to a particular casino. UV markings can be made on the inlay. Certain chips incorporate RFID technology, such as those at the new Wynn Casino in Las Vegas. Also, maker's marks are difficult to reproduce.