RFID Protects Casino Against Theft

A thief stole $1.5 million worth of chips from the Bellagio Resort & Casino, in Las Vegas—but got away with nothing, thanks to radio frequency identification.
Published: December 15, 2010

An interesting article was published today on Minyanville.com about the theft of $1.5 million worth of chips from the Bellagio Resort & Casino, in Las Vegas, Nev. (see The Bellagio Gets Robbed—But the House Doesn’t Feel a Thing).

The article, written by Justin Rohrlich, reports: “At 3:50 am this morning, a man in a full-face motorcycle helmet walked up to a craps table at the Bellagio hotel-casino in Las Vegas, pulled a gun, and made off with approximately $1.5 million in chips, ranging in value from $100 to $25,000. However, while the chips were worth seven-figures at 3:50 a.m., at 3:51 a.m. they weren’t worth a thing—and any potential financial damage to the Bellagio is exactly none.”

According to the article, the Bellagio has a secondary set of chips with a different design, which can immediately be used to replace every chip in the house, so that the stolen chips can no longer be used. Moreover, most chips with a face value of $100 or more, as well as some with a face value as low as $25, have embedded RFID transponders. Thus, each chip can be uniquely identified.

A hotel employing RFID-enabled chips can thus take inventory, determine which serial numbers are associated with those that were stolen and immediately invalidate those particular chips. In that way, if a thief tries to redeem them for cash, or use them at a table, they can be identified as stolen and the thief can be apprehended.

The article quotes John Kendall, the president of Chipco International, a gaming-chip manufacturer with more than 100 million chips in use in casinos worldwide, as being “stunned” by the theft. “I have spoken to the people at the Bellagio, whom I know well,” he told Minyanville. “And those chips became worthless the moment they left the casino. This guy obviously just did not understand the dynamics of the industry he was attacking.”

Clearly, RFID makes stealing from casinos a bad bet.

Mark Roberti is the founder and editor of RFID Journal. If you would like to comment on this article, click on the link below. To read more of Mark’s opinions, visit the RFID Journal Blog or the Editor’s Note archive.