Gaming in its DNA: Casino Chips Go High-Tech

That’s right, DNA. Yes, in the chips.

The drive to protect the gaming industry from counterfeiting has gone into the realm of what seems like science fiction. Actual DNA is being implanted in casino chips and other gaming products to create a level of security unseen before.

“The DNA which is naturally occurring in plants can be extracted and then recombined to create a unique code. This rearranged molecule can then be added to plastic, paint, a paper tag or more, to create a marker that cannot be copied,” says Gordon Platt, spokesman for Applied DNA Sciences (APDN), which uses plant DNA to prevent counterfeiting and currently has products undergoing confidential field tests. What Platt is referring to are the fundamentals behind APDN’s mind-bending two anti-counterfeiting security platforms, SigNature® DNA and BioMaterial Genotyping™. APDN implants botanically-derived DNA into casino chips, essentially creating one-of-a-kind markers that are literally impossible to duplicate.

Meanwhile, the company Dolphin Products just announced that Crown Casino Melbourne recently commissioned a set of new gaming chips with “Dolphin DNA,” a complex chemical barcode that cannot be deciphered or counterfeited and incorporates 13.56MHz radio frequency identification as well as a multi-channel hologram.

Gregory Gronau, president and CEO of Gaming Partners International, says of the technological advancements in casino chips: “It is important to note that much of what is currently marketed as ‘DNA’ in chip security isn’t true DNA.  They mainly consist of organic, inorganic and electro-active nano-particles (e.g., gold) that are added to the chip. While these may produce a few unique signatures, today’s technology makes it possible to analyze the chemical composition and replicate its signature.”

Gronau says plant-based DNA, while open to reverse engineering, is indeed quite secure. But it can be costly. He says, instead, “GPI offers a DNA taggant product that consists of mathematically sophisticated and diverse combinations of short bio-engineered in-vitro DNA strands that are coupled with an algorithmic encryption and encoding that makes it impossible to replicate or reverse engineer.” Additionally, since GPI uses laboratory methods commonly employed to establish paternity and personal identity, the findings are admissible in a court of law.

The ability to admit the technology as DNA evidence is also valuable. By providing a forensic chain of evidence, prosecutors are more likely to bring ironclad cases against counterfeiters.

Necessary? That’s up to each individual property’s assessment of risk. But there is a risk. In July, a New Jersey man was arrested for passing $1,900 in counterfeit chips at the Mount Airy Casino Resort in the Pocono Mountains. His attempt came just hours after the casino began offering table games. Small fry? A week earlier, a Wichita man was arrested for passing more than $100,000 of fake chips at the Argosy Casino. Meanwhile, Oklahoma authorities just got a guilty ruling against a man charged with passing $70,000 worth of counterfeit chips at Seneca Cayuga Grand Lake Casino last year.

In fact, Crown Casino’s adoption of Dolphin DNA chips was a direct result of the property suffering a counterfeit AU $1,000 chip scam last year. It resulted in the casino being forced to individually authenticate all AU $13.7 million worth of gambling chips. Over AU $36,000 in fake chips were discovered. Of the adoption, Crown’s Chief Operating Officer of Gaming Operations Richard Longhurst said: “The secure technologies implemented by Dolphin into our gaming chips will significantly increase the difficulty of not only producing forgeries but also improve early detection if used on property. Crown will operate more confidently as a result and continue to provide the highest levels of integrity within its gaming operations.”

Dolphin’s Director of Business Development for Gaming, Bryan Jenkins, says: “Dolphin DNA is a security feature and provides an unimpeachable level of security that can only be detected using our proprietary authentication device. That device will confirm the chip is made by Dolphin and the value of it.”

Meanwhile, GPI is so dedicated to ensuring that all of its products are verifiably authentic and secure that they are willing to offer some new security options at no charge to customers, with compact detection equipment for certain options available at a very reasonable cost. “Protecting our reputation, as well as that of our valued customers, is our priority so we envision all currency and dice products that are manufactured by GPI be protected with this product,” Gronau says.

While many may have experience with light-activated stamps or RFID-embedded chips, APDN says DNA technology is completely different. Platt explains, “DNA is used to create an authentication tag that cannot be copied.” He adds that the DNA technology can be used in conjunction with an RFID tag. “It can be used as a deeper level of authentication. The key distinction is that, because it makes use of DNA, it is admissible in courts as forensic evidence.”

The DNA science has other applications, too. Platt says, “The technology is also being used in the dyes that are contained in packets designed to explode all over money stolen from a bank, armored car or casino. If the DNA markers are present, they are sprayed all over the money and the robbers. The DNA stays even after the ink is washed off the cash, clothes and bodies. Again, it’s admissible as DNA evidence.”

At GPI, Gronau says, “Our DNA product will be available for all GPI currency products moving forward—as well as the possibility of using it on non-currency products like dice and playing cards.”

Of course, the speed of the verification process is integral to maintaining the pace of game play. “Our product supports physical, optical, mechanical and forensic inspection, enabling instant in-field verification as well as that of a forensic laboratory,” Gronau says. But regardless of what supplier a casino chooses, Gronau cautions that every property keep this reality in mind when choosing a supplier.

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