While the coronavirus has been impacting Las Vegas casino stocks and tourism, buffet operations, and many industry workers including convention vendors, it’s enabled a recent boost for this Las Vegas casino chip cleaning business.
Just ask Clay Dubois, the owner of Elite Chip Care.
Before the COVID-19 outbreak, business was slow. Dubois said the company would receive one of two inquiries from the casinos weekly.
Now, his chip cleaning business is getting 2-3 calls from casino operators a day, with inquires coming from around the country, not just in Las Vegas.
With Las Vegas casinos cracking down on their cleaning efforts amid coronavirus concerns, it makes sense for them to pay attention to the smaller details they overlooked before. While casinos chips are one of the most touched items in casinos, they’ve historically been passed up for extra sanitization care.
“Their only other recourse was have their team members do it by hand, which was unbelievably slow, or order new chips,” Dubois said. “All we have to do is sweep the dirt off and we can prolong the life of the chip.”
How Often are Casinos Chips Cleaned?
According to Scott Morrow, a hospitality lecturer at UNLV who boasts nearly 40 years of gaming industry experience, casino chips are rarely ever cleaned, if cleaned at all.
“In my experience in the industry, it doesn’t happen often enough,” Morrow said. “I’ve worked in operations where the chips were never cleaned in 20, 30 years.”
This, however, probably isn’t the case for the casino chips used in the World Series of Poker (WSOP). These chips are kept in near pristine condition, and it’s likely it’s because the WSOP is a major televised tournament that’s viewed across the entire country.
How Dirty are Casino Chips Anyhow?
Around 15 years ago, Brian Hedlund, a microbiologist and UNLV Professor, did a study to see just how dirty casino chips actually are.
In the study, he swapped poker chips from five Las Vegas Strip casinos, which he and his team chose to keep anonymous to keep the readings fair and not to shame the establishments.
Hedlund performed two rounds of bacteria swabs and incubated the chips of various denominations for two days so that the germs could reach their optimum level.
The findings saw that chips from the five casinos had anywhere between “a few hundred” through 5,600 bacteria per chip.
The most common type of bacteria found on the chips was staphylococcus, a common bacteria found on human skin but one that cause pimples, boils, and even serious skin infections.
The Chips Aren’t ‘Magically Dangerous’
While the number of bacteria found on the chips seems high, it’s relative to the number of bacteria found on other frequent points, such as doorknobs, elevator buttons, or money.
“It’s just something else that people are touching,” Hedlund said. “I don’t think it’s a bad idea to wash the chips every once in a while, but the chips aren’t something magically dangerous.”
Why Chip Cleaning Isn’t an Easy Task
Morrow pointed out why chip cleaning is a difficult task to be done internally, unlike other cleaning efforts readily done at Strip properties.
He said it simply “can’t be done on the casino floor” because “there has to be surveillance involved because you’re talking about one of your most precious assets.”
But he says casinos getting their chips cleaned is important because it improves the images and perception of the casino property:
“Anything we can do that says we understand there are challenges out there, and this is what we’re doing to ease tensions and make a positive impact and reduce risk,” he said.
Elite Chip Care Cleaning Procedure
At Elite Chip Care, Dubois, the business’ sole employee, utilizes six ultrasonic cleaners to get chips looking brand new again.
When he drops a chip into the water to get it cleaned, he says “there’s sludge at the bottom from everything that comes off” and that the water post-cleaning can be “pretty gray.”
The company’s magnum opus, however, is its basket design that can conveniently clean up to 640 chips at one time.
After the chips are dunked and washed, he throws them into a 170-degree convection oven to kill off any remaining bacteria.
What Dubois wants casino companies to know is that while chip cleaning is important to the overall positive presentation in table games and the player’s and team member’s peace of mind, it’s not an end-all preventative measure:
“I can sterilize your chips in the ovens today, somebody comes in tomorrow and sneezes on your chips and guess what? You’ve got a viral outbreak,” he said.
To schedule a chip cleaning with Elite Chip Care, contact Clay Dubois at 702-444-5115 for a quote or fill out this form.