New currency keeps slot makers hopping

Jul 1, 2003 8:36 AM

  Companies that make bill validators for slot machines are scrambling to keep up with new currency about to be introduced by the U.S. government.

National security concerns over counterfeiting have prompted the U.S. Treasury Department again to revamp American currency, with another new $20 bill scheduled for public circulation late this year.

That will mean that the software in bill validators in hundreds of thousands of gaming machines will have to be updated. Makers of the validators will make the new software available for free to the owners of the machines, and gaming machine manufacturers eventually will be required to use them in new models.

Meanwhile, the top makers of bill validators have been working with Treasury officials since last winter to prepare the new bill for use in gaming devices.

One those companies is JCM American Corp., based in Las Vegas, which has bill validators in 700,000 slots in North America.

Engineers from JCM and other manufacturers traveled to the Bureau of Engraving and Printing in Washington, D.C., in December to view a test run of the proposed "NewGen" bills, which feature cutting-edge, anti-counterfeiting security features.

"We ran it through a lot of our magnetic equipment and our optical equipment and we made recommendations on how to improve the note and the printing process," said David Kubajak, director of customer service and the government liaison for JCM.

"They received recommendations from other companies as well," Kubajak said. "They bring us in well before the final design for our input."

After receiving industry feedback, the bureau made changes and invited the companies back for a second printing test run of the bill in March — the bills had a large "TEST" stamped on them so they could not be cashed — for more input, Kubajak said.

JCM suggested the Treasury Department use magnetic technology in the bills, which can be detected only through the use of high-resolution scanners in the validators, Kubajak said.

JCM’s validator will eventually take 1,920 readings across 90 percent of both sides of each bill in a matter of only a couple of seconds.

In the new $20 bill, the magnetic signatures — read by ultraviolet light in the validator — will be embedded in the black ink in one of the two Treasury seals on the bill.

Bill validator companies like JCM are getting ready for the new $20 bill by coming out with new optical and magnetic features in their validator software that will know what to read in the bill.

The planned bill will have President Andrew Jackson’s portrait a little off center to the left, allowing space for a watermark of Jackson to the right. Another watermark, of an eagle, will be at left. The ink of a number "20" on the face of the bill will shift in color from copper to green when viewed a varying angles.

Once the design for the bill is ready, JCM and other bill validator makers will submit their software for approval to Nevada, Mississippi and other state gaming boards, which will test the validators before recommending approval for installation into slot machines.

The bill’s design will be reviewed in the coming weeks by the Anti-Counterfeit Deterrence Steering Committee, which will make the final decision on it.

Kubajak said that the new bill could receive final approval from the U.S. government in October or November of this year.

New issues for the $50 and $100 bills are scheduled for 2004 and 2005. Redesign of the $10 and $5 bills is under consideration, but a redesign of the $2 and $1 notes is not planned.