When it comes to protecting casino currency, GPI continues to light the way—literally
Customer communication is more than a strategy at Gaming Partners International. It’s a discipline. In Asia this has been sharpened to a particularly fine edge since the Macau office opened three years ago, a move that positioned the company to listen and learn as never before. The result, as Scott McCarthy, vice president of sales for Asia, explains it, is that GPI is introducing new, more secure casino currency products in the region with greater confidence at every stage of the development process, which is saying something for one of the great innovators in this most demanding of fields.
“Before it was a case where you might hear something, it might be three months or six months before you start to talk about an order,” he says, “and that might not have necessarily been remembered in the development. But now we’re here all the time, so we go on site, we talk to the customers, and they say, ‘We’ve had this challenge this week,’ so we go back, we take notes, those notes are uploaded and shared among our development teams.”
Engagement with the operator doesn’t end there either. Far from it.
Inside Asian Gaming Editor James Rutherford presents GPI Vice President of Sales for Asia Scott McCarthy with the IAG 2014 Supplier Award for “Best Table Gaming Currency” for GPI’s Bourgogne & Grasset plaques and jetons.
“That’s something else that we’re doing differently now,” he says. “We’re doing a lot more alpha prototypes. Before we get anything finalized we get it out to all our partners in the market. They have the opportunity to use it, to play with it, to get internal feedback. We can fine-tune it at that point before we go to beta and before we release it to manufacturing.”
Security is the bottom line for GPI’s casino partners, hardpressed as they are, in booming Macau especially, to protect their most precious asset—their chips, plaques and jetons—from the twin plagues of counterfeiting and theft.
GPI has been in the trenches with them, “feeling their pain,” as Mr McCarthy puts it, and has lost no time in crafting a range of solutions.
In the vanguard is a new multilayered UV authentication tool—3-in-1 UV—which was unveiled in May at G2E Asia. It provides operators with a veritable firewall of security, actually, three of them, the foundation of which is the company’s exclusive gaming industry rights to a chemical signature (a taggant, as it’s called) that is blended covertly into a chip’s pigment to respond to ultraviolet light at a wavelength of 312 nanometers by glowing a bright orange while remaining invisible under the standard wavelength of 365nm.
“UV’s fantastic,” Mr McCarthy explains, “because it’s fast and easy to authenticate, which is very important on a table. You want to be able to verify the chips that are coming in quickly. You don’t want to slow down the game. But UV has been out for so long it’s readily available. The pigment is readily available. It’s used in so many different industries for so many different things. It’s not that it’s been counterfeited. It’s just used incorrectly, unfortunately.”
Completing the package of protections is a unique “fingerprint” verifiable with a laboratory spectrometer, supported additionally by the ability to perform forensic analysis with DNA-level exactness using scanning electron microscopy.
3-in-1’s taggant can be incorporated into solid colors in any number of locations on the chip, including the inserts and inner ring, and added to edge spots for quick verification in a tray or chip rack. It can also be read with a special dual-wavelength 312/365 lamp for added flexibility.
The company also has moved decisively to ensure that holograms retain their integrity as one of the industry’s prized security features.
Mr McCarthy notes that “When holograms were first brought out the equipment was not commonplace, and the actual printing of the material itself was hard to come by. But now it’s very commonplace. And we’re seeing brilliant copies to the point that they’re sharp and they’re accurate. It’s not just us, even the credit cards and the monetary authorities are having the same challenges. Anyone using holograms are having similar challenges.”
GPI’s response is SecuriFilm, which employs an exclusive foil that shows a traditional hologram on an initial examination and then generates a distinct pattern when a chip is turned under fluorescent light, which also reveals a small “box” that identifies the piece as authentic. The film can be designed to produce different colors as well, and for added security the foil is readable separately by a special device that can be installed for back-of-house verification. And the chip designs are fully customizable.
“It’s taking what was something that is very basic and it’s really beefing it up,” says Mr McCarthy. “But there needed to be a response because the customers like the hologram, they like the holographic effect.”
The popularity outside North America of European-style jetons poses a unique set of security challenges because jetons don’t fit into a chip rack, and their characteristic rounded edges make them impossible to read in a stack. Last year, GPI tackled the problem with the J3 Hybrid. It’s marketed under the company’s popular Bourgogne & Grasset line and is available in two different decal sizes and with different-colored inserts to make identifying the jeton surface easier. But the key to the J3 is its squared edge and thickness, which means it handles like an American-style chip: it can be racked and read by its edge spots. Building on that this year, the company brought to G2E Asia a J3 with a taggant inserted in the edge spot that is detectable right at the table using GPI’s LaserTrack optical reader. And it can be read in the same way racked in large quantities. The taggant also can be added to the gold lace of a plaque, so LaserTrack protection is now available at very high-denomination tables.
“Over the last 12 months, we’ve taken it from A to Z really quickly,” says Mr McCarthy.
The same innovative spirit is evident in the company’s continuing work in RFID, a technology it helped pioneer in the gaming space. G2E Asia saw the debut of a new open-source version of its sophisticated Chip Inventory System. CIS was a groundbreaking technology for enabling a casino to track currency movements from cage to vault to the gaming floor with instant authentication and validation of amounts and inventory monitoring in real time. The new 2.1 is even more versatile. It can be customized to create alerts for cash buy-ins and chip-tray variations, and open-sourcing allows it to interface with any third-party casino or table management system and integrate with surveillance systems to make chip movements and transactions observable in real time.
GPI also has released a proprietary technology that combines its high-frequency RFID tags with electromagnetic chip detection in a system that triggers an alarm when a piece of currency is taken into an unauthorized area or past a designated staff exit or entrance.
“We’re seeing a lot more interest in RFID,” says Mr McCarthy. “I think people are allowing themselves to get excited about it again.”
The feedback stemming from this will ensure the technology becomes even more robust as needs require.
“It’s critical,” says Mr McCarthy, speaking of GPI’s commitment to involving its customers in the design and application of every new product and product concept.
“We’ve always done it to a certain degree, but now that really drives our development. We’re very focused in the way we do it inasmuch as we’re very mindful of where the security feature is going to be used—whether it’s going to be at the table, the cage, the fill bank—and the supporting device that goes with that product. The application’s got to be practical. We understand that it’s all about ROI.”