Don’t Gamble with your IT Assets! – World’s Largest Casinos and their RFID Practices


Since this Member Digest coincides with the Spring ACE in Henderson, Nevada, I felt it was appropriate to consider what ITAM and the main business of Las Vegas might have in common. Certainly, we have quite a few members and course attendees that work as IT Asset Managers for casinos across the world. But, while researching this question, I uncovered more connections than the direct link to the IT department. Apparently, asset management is quite prevalent in Vegas casinos and has been for a number of years. The most precious commodity of Vegas is protected using the same tools and similar processes as we use in IT Asset Management.

The Chip as Asset

During the 1880s, several companies started producing casino chips (more commonly referred to as tokens or poker chips) that were typically made of a clay composition. From that time forward, the actual manufacturing processes have changed but have remained trade secrets closely held by each organization. This secrecy is a primary step in preventing the counterfeiting of chips and other fraudulent actions. Chips are an enticing target since the chips represent different denominations just like money. Essentially, why try and crack all of the security features of the dollar bill if you could recreate casino chips and achieve the same result?

This situation happened in 2005. To the Green Valley Ranch [1]. (Where IAITAM had their ACE in 2008.)

Erick Morikawa and Jeremy Lewis, both construction workers from Henderson, Nevada concocted a scheme to convert low denomination chips into high denomination values. While this is happening to several other casinos in the area, Morikawa and Lewis took $1 denomination chips and converted them to $100 to $500 denominations and cashed them regularly. According to the Nevada Gaming Control Board, control board enforcement chief Keith Copher said, “These were high-quality counterfeit chips.” It is believed that several million dollars’ worth circulated undetected; a testament to their quality.

A Familiar Solution

The solution that the majority of casinos turned to was passive RFID transmitters [2] embedded in their casino chips. When placed near a reader, the chips provided information about the location of its home casino as well as the expected value. The chip-in-a-chip solution made it impossible for low denomination chips to ever be swapped for higher denominations again. In essence, casinos used an asset management technique to manage a different kind of asset, literally managing their money!

By using the RFID tracking solution to manage their monetary assets, casinos have been able to better track and prevent internal and external theft and reduce risk. Sound familiar?

It should, as we leverage the same type of tracking solutions with physical IT assets. Installing a tracking solution on mobile assets and guess what? Employee theft is reduced and lost or stolen mobile assets are more efficiently tracked and recovered. The organizational chaos that leads to the risks of poor financial return as well as security issues is reduced by tracking, setting the stage for other processes to be successful. The Vegas chip example shows us that these types of practices permeate organizations beyond the traditional IT assets. Of course, we have some tracking advantages when working with IT assets since they have better communication capabilities than other types of assets. However, the risk that comes with those capabilities more than explains the complexity and depth required in IT Asset Management. Tracking is a beginning step in ITAM, not an end.

Don’t let the chips fall in favor of the house. Stack the deck in your favor by creating a program for IT assets, not a set of procedures.


[1] Destination America, “Making Counterfeit Chips – Cheating Vegas”[2] Saenz, Aaron, “$1.5M Robbery of Bellagio Casino Foiled Thanks to RFID Chips”

About the Author

The International Association of IT Asset Managers (IAITAM) is the largest organization providing education, certification and thought leadership to the management of IT as a business. IT Asset Management is the management of hardware, software, mobile and other technology to maximize the value to the organization.