There is nothing like hearing the chirp of casino chips as they are being riffled. A busy casino or poker room has a distinctive sound you never forget. Can you remember the clatter the first time you heard the losing casino chips scooped away by the roulette croupier? I bet you can. I also bet you have wondered, at least once, where the concept of casino chips came from.

Gamblers have used tokens and counters to keep score for centuries. Quadrille is a French game dating back to the 18th century. It used a number of different counters called fiches, jetons, and mils. Players used these counters to determine ownership for purposes of settling payments when the game ended.

Poker players are credited with using the first true casino chips, tokens with monetary value. They used gold nuggets, gold dust, and coins in the 19th century before companies started producing actual chips.

Several companies produced betting chips between the 1880s and late 1930s. More than 1,000 clay composite chips designs were available. Patterns were limited, but casino chips manufacturers could make any colour within reason.

Why Use Casino Chips?

Gambling houses and casinos realised having a standard round chip was better than having stacks of notes and coins dotted around the tables. They also realised casino chips increased the security of their venue.

People know casino chips have a monetary value but are less likely to steal them over actual money. Imagine playing high stakes blackjack with tens of thousands of dollars laying on the table!

Some casinos have microchips implanted into them which allows for scanning. Casinos security can track the location of higher value chips, making them less likely to be stolen.

Very high-value betting chips are called plaques. These are much larger and usually a rectangle shape. Plaques of $100,000 or more are common in VIP rooms in Australia’s casinos.

It isn’t uncommon for casino chips to be used as actual currency. They have a monetary value, after all. This practice is common in Las Vegas where gamblers use chips for all kinds of reasons. Waitresses accept them as payment for drinks and for tips. Some taxis accept casino chips for payment of fares.

These chips are interchangeable between venues. Caesars and MGM have several casinos in Las Vegas. You can use casino chips in any of their casinos if the owner of the casino is the same.

The Psychology Of Not Using Physical Money

It isn’t only for security reasons why casino use chips instead of cash. There are a couple of ulterior motives behind the thinking.

Using casino chips makes players distance themselves from the money they’re gambling with. It’s much easier for a gambler to toss in $25 worth of chips over some crisp dollar notes.

Players are more likely to keep hold of chips too. People put them in their pockets and forget to exchange them before leaving the casino. Or they keep hold of them with the intention of using them on their next visit. That next visit may not be for several months. Meanwhile, the casino has the player’s actual cash and the player has a ceramic disc.

It is not uncommon for venues to produce special edition chips. They put fancy patterns or commemorative dates on $1 and $5 chips hoping players take them home with them! Tens of thousands of players regularly do this, which creates huge sums of money for casinos.

I saw plenty of special edition $5 chips when I was last in Las Vegas. It seemed every other red $5 chip had a fancy pattern or a special inlay. I always wondered how many of these special chips ended up in players’ pockets.