Economic History Case Studies: RFID Casino Chips, Cryptocurrency Gambling, and Soviet Slot Machines

Back in The Third Place (1st Ed.), I discussed the significance of Las Vegas Strip by addressing a key aspect of its recent economic history. As I had concluded back then, the overall stability of a Las Vegas hotel and casino rested on Las Vegas itself maintaining a predominant role in the Gaming Industry (not to be mistaken for the “Video Gaming Industry”). When Native American tribes, Atlantic City, Macau, and others began opening their own casinos, the casinos on the Strip were forced to innovate. The result is that they began taking on the characteristics of a luxury resort with the amenities of a Shopping Mall.

A notable example that was mentioned in the relevant Entries was Caesar’s Palace in Las Vegas, which came with photographs and floorplans. Since I cannot assume that everyone reading this Blog has read the aforementioned Entries or are not sure which ones I am referring to, I am including the original photographs and floorplans below.

Granted, I must admit that my discussion of Las Vegas casinos in The Third Place was incapable of fully describing a key trait that only received a passing mention. I am of course referring to the concept of casinos expecting patrons to exchange their Currencies for “Casino Chips.” There are at least five notable Intents for why casinos would employ Casino Chips:

  1. A Casino Chip is an easier Unit of Account compared to most conventional Currencies. They can be denominated in whole numbers, negating the need for employees to account for decimalization (an important issue in conventional currency exchanges).
  2. In addition to being an easier Unit of Account by not having to require decimalization, one can quickly identify the Values of individual Chips by their weight.
  3. Any usage deters patrons from stealing them because they are worthless outside the casino. Thus, it will encourage patrons to behave themselves and play be the rules.   
  4. They help patrons worry less about losing their Currencies and focus on taking more risks.  
  5. Lastly, one recent proposal is to manufacture Casino Chips with RFID (Radio-Frequency Identification) tags. Casinos will be able to know how much each patron is betting and the performance of card dealers. RFID Technology can track the movement of Casino Chips when used to pay for goods and services on the premises. They are also an ideal anti-counterfeiting measure because they can even collect data on whoever is using them.
A Casino Chip with its RFID chip exposed.

RFID Technology in Casino Chips has been employed for nearly two decades. Although the Technology itself has yet to be adopted by all casinos, it does reflect a growing need to develop anti-counterfeiting measures.   

Thus, it begs the question: What kind of Currency are Casino Chips? Are they Commodity Currencies, Representative Currencies, Fiat Currencies, Cryptocurrencies, or Sociable Currencies? Given the proposal to operate casinos in The Work-Standard and The Third Place to facilitate the LERE Process for creating Digital Arbeit and Digital Geld (because they require constant sources of electrical power), could Casino Chips qualify as a Sociable Currency?

Most Casino Chips function as Fiat Currencies. They are not a Commodity Currency like Gold or Silver because they become worthless outside the casino. They cannot be a Representative Currency since Casino Chips do not represent a negotiable claim on another Currency. As a Fiat Currency, Casino Chips are denominated in the Value they are given by the Casino. Patrons expect that the Price they pay for those Casino Chips will also be the same Value.

The recent rise of online gambling establishments, together with Cryptocurrencies, has introduced an entirely different conception of Casino Chips. The most common Cryptocurrencies, namely Bitcoin and Ethereum, can also be used to gamble in online casinos. Instead of converting to Casino Chips, one gambles directly from their Cryptocurrency Wallet. For those interested, I found a website that provides a straightforward overview of Cryptocurrency gambling, from the most popular establishments to offering patrons with an understanding on how Cryptocurrencies can change their overall gameplay experience and payouts.

If there is one disadvantage that Cryptocurrencies have against conventional Casino Chips, it is that casinos have already caught on to the implications that Bitcoin and Ethereum pose to their operations. One notable instance has been the decision to commission limited-edition, commemorative Casino Chips capable of serving as souvenirs. Due to the inherent characteristics of Blockchain Technology, Cryptocurrencies cannot be preserved or stored somewhere outside the digital realm. This is important because Casino Chips manufactured for defunct casinos can become collector items, what was described in The Third Place as Antiques.    

As for the Work-Standard, the idea of Casino Chips being a Sociable Currency raise some implications. Is it possible that Casino Chips could serve as one potential method in which the Totality and State could implement “Foreign Exchange Certificates (FECs)” at the Kontore? Could a tourist exchange their Currencies for FECs (as opposed to the Totality’s Currency), which they could then spend on gambling, in addition to the usual array of goods and services?

When I proposed FECs to serve as an NSFI (National-Socialized Financial Instrument), I was thinking of viewing the FECs as distinguishable from the actual Sociable Currency. They do not necessarily have to resemble actual banknotes. They can just as easily resemble large coins about the size of a Casino Chip. Another possibility was to incorporate into digital payment processing system involving the usage of Payment Cards.

Moreover, I did mention in The Third Place that one of the proposals outlined in the Soviet Union’s Perestroika was to allow some limited gambling services for tourists at international hotels. While the Soviets experimented with slot machines, I have not found any evidence that they had gone any further such as roulette wheels, craps tables, or blackjack and poker tables. We have yet to encounter a Socialist Nation determined to pioneer this endeavor and try to integrate it into its own version of economic planning. For those interested, I am including some excerpts of information I found online about the Soviet slot machines:

In all, from the early 1970s to the early 1990s, about a hundred varieties of slot machines were released in the USSR. 95% of them were copies of Western automata, the rest were original Soviet developments, some machines were produced for decades, gradually modernizing and improving, others were removed from production due to unpopularity, lack of payback or production difficulties.

“In all, from the early 1970s to the early 1990s, about a hundred varieties of slot machines were released in the USSR. 95% of them were copies of Western automata, the rest were original Soviet developments, some machines were produced for decades, gradually modernizing and improving, others were removed from production due to unpopularity, lack of payback or production difficulties.

All gaming machines can be classified using different division principles. The easiest way – distribution by topic. So, the Soviet arcades can be divided into military, sports, shooting and racing simulators, pinballs, automatic rockers. A more accurate and complex classification is technical, according to which all Soviet gaming machines are divided into electromechanical and electronic. The latter are based on discrete logic, and to display the playing field in them, as a rule, a television screen is used.”

What is really interesting is that the Soviet slot machines, if they were not imported from the Western Bloc, had some interesting game mechanics. Apparently, prior to the inception of video game developers having gambling mechanics into their games, the Soviet Union discovered those implications decades before mobile games, consoles, handhelds, and PC games. What the Soviets did differently was focus more on the gameplay than the monetization.

Categories: Economic History

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