Chip makers reap benefits from poker

Jul 6, 2004 5:37 AM

Chip maker, chip maker, make me a chip.

These days casino chip makers are, well, in the chips. "Right now, we can’t make chips fast enough," says Michael Endy, the operations manager for the Blue Chip Company. He says the company will be adding a second shift and may possibly start running 24 hours a day to keep up with a demand spurred on largely by the explosion of interest in poker and the sprouting up of card rooms, among other things.

The Blue Chip Company, which has been churning out chips for less than two years, is pretty much a family affair with Charles Endy being the senior salesman, one of his sons, David, is the other salesman and another son, Michael, is the operations manager. Charles Endy’s wife, Dorothy, is the office manger, while a cousin, Denny Endy, has the security responsibilities for the company.

And this is a company that is, not surprisingly, heavy on security. Visitors are not allowed to take a tour of the plant so the chip production process remains shrouded in mystery. There are no cameras or camera cell phones allowed in the production areas nor are video recorders allowed past the employees-only sign. New employees are told about the security precautions when they are hired and the 19 employees who work in the assembly part of the building are visually scanned every day as they walk to their work stations in the plant at 201 Commerce Park Court in North Las Vegas.

Endy family members turn away questions on the production process for chip making, the price structure for chips and any questions on the machinery except to say that chips are custom made, or as Michael Endy puts it, "It’s not like you go down to Wal-mart and buy a chip making machine." It took the Endy family and partner Louis Degregorio about a year to set up the building and make it ready for the production of chips.

There are also surveillance cameras inside and outside the building, and one casino insisted that Blue Chip install a bar and fence in front of a garage door so that an intruder couldn’t drive a car through it and into the production area.

The company’s vault, which holds chips waiting to be shipped, is encased in reinforced steel, says Charles Endy, who has been in the chip business for about four decades in both California and Nevada. The company has shipped its chips as far away as Maryland, Michigan, Ohio and Florida but is not licensed in New Jersey, which means it can’t tap into the lucrative Atlantic City market.

The Nevada Gaming Commission says all chips must have the identifying marks of the manufacturer. Blue Chip’s mark uses a sun mold for chips it sells to casinos and six torches — which resemble a shell — for chips it sells retail. The state of Nevada requires that chips carry the denomination, the casino’s name and the city and state in which the casino is located, and the manufacturer’s mark.

The chips come in 16 denominations (if you count the $8 chip which is produced exclusively for Chinese New Year). The 15 standard denominations range up to a $100,000 chip.

Some of the commonly-used chips and the color they come in include the $1 chip (blue or white), $5 chip (red), $25 chip (green), $100 chip (black), $500 chip (purple), $1,000 chip (yellow), $5,000 chip (orange or chocolate). The Endys said there is no standard color for the 25 cent and 50 cent chips which are used mostly by the downtown casinos, or for the $20, $25,000 or $100,000 chips.

Chips are cut to within 1/1000 of an inch in both their diameter and thickness and casino chips are ever so slightly heftier (9.2 grams to 9.7 grams) than retail chips (8.5 grams to 8.9 grams) to protect the casinos. They come in three classifications, inlay edge spot, solid inlay and solid hot stamp. The inlay edge spot chip is used in casino games such as pai gow poker and baccarat. The solid inlay is used in roulette. The solid hot stamp chip is used in poker tournaments, blackjack, and dice. The Endys said about 85 percent of the chips they produce are the inlay edge spot, 10 percent are the solid inlay and 5 percent are the hot stamp.

The Endys said the inlay edge spot is the hardest to make because it is hand assembled, a process that takes a steady hand and a great deal of patience. David Endy said most of the 19 back-shop employees are women.

He added that Blue Chip, which sells slightly more chips wholesale to companies who buy them over the Internet than to casinos, has never had a chip counterfeited. Chips are used at commemorative events, conventions, concerts and at promotions.

Casinos order chips when there is a change in ownership such as when Barrick Gaming bought the Plaza and ordered all new chips, or simply when chips become worn out or are lost to patrons who keep them as souvenirs.

For more information about the Blue Chip Company, contact David Endy at (702) 528-5019.