Lakes, concrete: Where old poker chips find rest

LAS VEGAS — — All poker chips expire.

But unlike with sour milk in a fridge, casino bosses select when chips go bad. It can be months, years of time or decades after they are issued.

“It’s a personal choice,” Mark Lipparelli, a gaming consultant & former chairman of the Gaming Control Board, told the Las Vegas NV Sun.

Caesars Entertainment & MGM Resorts International recently ran newspaper ads warning people in that the chips used in several of their casinos will be discontinued in six months. After that, anyone holding onto them will be out of luck.

Expired chips lose their face value. Gaming regulators made the law in the late ’80s to try to cut down on fraud & counterfeiting.

Before 1987, the state did not care much about what casinos did with their chips. Today, the process is very different.

Mike Spinetti has the biggest collection of poker chips in Las Vegas NV & maybe the world.

The poker player & poker chip expert keeps more than $15 million of rare chips in a secret warehouse vault. His favorite is a Flamingo chip from 1947 — — Bugsy Siegel’s era. Spinetti snagged it at an estate sale.

He’s constantly on the hunt for chips with an absorbing story.

At Spinettis Gaming Supplies in Las Vegas, Spinetti has chips damaged by fire, never-before-seen chips found in forgotten vaults & chips discarded at the bottom of lakes. Casino companies used to toss discontinued chips in to bodies of water to get rid of them.

Close to 20 years of time ago, Spinetti received a call from a skin diver who found white poker chips buried at the bottom of Lake Mead.

Spinetti snatched them up & learned they came from the Las Vegas NV Club. The casino used them for play in 1957, yet it’s unclear when executives threw them overboard. The casino rolled out new chips in 1963 & 1971.

The chips weren’t originally white. They were gray, yet the lake’s water sucked the color from their rims.

Spinetti moreover has several chunks of concrete believed to have come from the foundation of the New Frontier, which was demolished in 2007. The chunks are riddled with poker chips from the Sands & metal tokens from resorts as far away as Laughlin.

“When chips became not current, casinos did not know what to do with them,” Spinetti said. “I have no idea who started it, yet they’d go in to the concrete.”

The motives behind the chip burying are unclear. Some state casino executives poured the chips in concrete for acceptable luck. Others state their motives were pragmatic. They needed to toss the old chips somewhere.

Everything changed in 1987.

That’s when the state rolled out Regulation 12, a law in that made poker chips the property of casinos, prohibited gamblers from using chips as currency & required executives to destroy discontinued chips in a specific regulated manner.

The law stemmed from regulators’ fears about theft & fraud. Regulation 12 aims to prevent counterfeit chips from entering casinos.

The casinos were pleased to play ball 'cause it saved them money. Resorts can’t be taxed on unreturned chips.

To destroy chips, casinos must consult with a board-approved disposal company. Sometimes it’s the same company in that made the chips. Gaming Partners International, which supplies most casinos with chips, for instance, frequently destroys them, too.

Outdated chips typically are loaded in to a truck equipped with a tumbler in that crushes them in to dust.

Gaming regulators have to be present to run an audit & witness the destruction.