Gaming Partners International Corporation is offering its customers ever-improved security and more customisation in the design of casino currency
GPI’s purchase last year of a mould manufacturing company—located near its French headquarters in the world-famous wine producing region of’Burgundy—is bearing fruit. The company says it enables greater customisation of chips for venue operators and, crucially, enhances the chain of custody for any exclusive new security technologies that GPI wishes to introduce in the continual arms race against the counterfeiters.
Inside Asian Gaming spoke during ICE 2012 to Kirsten Clark, GPI’s Vice President of Global Marketing and Product Management, to find out more.
IAG: Please explain what you’ve been doing with chip customisation.
Kirsten Clark: Last summer we completed the acquisition of OMC, a highprecision mould-making company located near our French headquarters in Beaune. One of the driving forces behind this acquisition was to be able to offer a much higher level of product customisation to casinos. In the months since, we’ve put a lot of emphasis on being able to create very intricate chip mould designs. That gives our customers the ability to have a more customised product and a more brand-driven experience when their players use the chips.
What’s different about this compared to ‘traditional’ chip manufacturing?
To give you a bit of history, if you’re purchasing an American-style chip, the way it’s been done in the past is that the customer would select a chip style from a ‘menu’ of standard chip designs built from existing chip moulds. And really all the casino did other than periodically deciding to ‘customise’ the chip with a denomination or by adding their name, was to pick the colour combinations that would be used in the various injection shots. This has primarily been because high-precision moulds are expensive and time-consuming to develop. And the more moulds a chip requires, the more difficult it is to manufacture and keep the product structurally intact.
With our acquisition of OMC and the greater emphasis we’re placing on offering more intricate designs that are structurally sound, we’re taking American-style chip design to a new level that is more visually appealing and flexible than existing designs and offers casinos the ability to make their ‘money’ even more counterfeit resistant. This isn’t to say that standard chip designs aren’t still an important option, or that their designs haven’t advanced and become more intricate. We’re just now giving our customers a much broader set of options with customised designs.
“Casinos want to make their chips an easily-identifiable piece of authentic inventory. We’ve been working diligently to fine-tune our design and engineering capabilities so we can go to our customers and say: ‘You don’t have to just pick your chips from a menu. We can work with you to create something that is uniquely yours’.”
As casinos look to enhance their competitive edge, especially in the aggressive Asian gaming market, they are looking at more diverse ways to create a total brand package. So, by offering casinos the opportunity to individualise their chip design and align it with their marketing and branding strategies, we can produce a currency product that is not only uniquely tailored to the customer’s needs, but also, due to the added complexity of the design, is more counterfeit resistant than traditionallymanufactured chips.
Who’s buying the new products?
Since we started offering these more intricate chips in 2011, we’ve successfully filled significant orders for numerous large Asian operators. We have one operator, for example, who is now using a beautiful chip that incorporates their iconic building design into the chip ring. And another operator recently began using a chip that uses their brand mark as part of the chip design, creating a visually striking chip that really is one of a kind. It’s been a real honour for our talented designers and engineers to work with these operators to develop these unique designs, especially since they are being used on the gaming floors as part of the branding experience. That’s an important consideration when you’re talking about a big gaming venue. But design is just one aspect of the equation: casinos also want to make their chips an easily-identifiable piece of authentic inventory, and we’ve been working diligently to fine-tune our design and engineering capabilities so we can go to our customers and say: ‘You don’t have to just pick your chips from a menu. We can work with you to create something that is uniquely yours’.
Are there security benefits that come with having your own moulding operation?
Sure, because when we’re talking about casino currency we’re really talking about money, and developing and producing custom moulds in-house ensures that the chip design chain of custody remains intact. For every chip design or security feature we bring to market, there are going to be even more people trying to figure out a way to copy it. So it’s important to constantly bring to market new [security] features and new methods of [counterfeit] detection. Highly customised moulds can provide the best of both worlds. That’s especially important in Asia where the amounts of money involved in casino transactions are so significant. So we’re being very aggressive in what currency products we’re developing and making sure that the chip aesthetics also function as an authentication tool because the first counterfeit detection point is the dealer. We don’t want to slow the game down by having the chips used in every buy-in or transaction manually checked. Creating a unique chip design can aid the dealers in quicker detection of potential currency security issues. Ideally, we want to create a situation where if a counterfeit chip is introduced, the staff can identify it visually and then use other methods to further validate whether or not it is authentic.
The less intricate the chip, the easier it is to counterfeit. Plastic mould injection technology is commonplace across all sorts of industries, so the threshold for copying plastic-injection American-style chips has been lowered. So if you have access to moulded injection facilities, and you are trying to counterfeit a simple chip design, there isn’t such a big barrier for the bad guys. Highly customised chip moulds can help raise the bar again, especially when combined with new invisible security technologies.
Can you tell us anything about these new security technologies?
In the past few months we’ve been in the final phase of developing several new security features and nanotechnologies that can be incorporated into the chips and inks, and we’ll be debuting several of these new options shortly at G2E Asia. They’re significant advancements from features like the standard UV pigments [security measures that show up when scanned with ultraviolet light] that have been used in gaming chips for years. Ten years ago these UV pigments were cutting edge, but now they have become widely accessible because they are used by so many other industries.
So, we have heightened our focus on identifying emerging technologies with security applications and getting the exclusive rights to their use within gaming so that we can better control the chain of custody. For us, it’s a question of being able to incorporate one or more of these technologies into something as small as a chip, and ensure that the new feature provides reliable security at a cost point that makes sense. With live table gaming markets such as those in Asia that have massive money movement and are a high temptation for counterfeiters, anything we can do to secure casinos’ and players’ money and also provide operational efficiencies really makes sense. We’re confident that the market will be impressed by the new items we’ll debut in May.
Will smaller casinos be able to afford customised chips?
One of the key things we’ve done—and something we showed at ICE—is to offer customisation at all price points. Not every casino in the world will want to invest in a six- or seven-shot custom chip design, so we’re also offering customisable options with fewer injection shots. So, regardless of the operation, they still have the option to choose more customisable currency. We’re enthusiastic about the feedback and interest we’ve gotten so far, and so even though traditional American-style chip designs have existed with the same style types for many years, we’re still working on new and improved ways to refresh them and we are now also taking them to a different level.