In the aftermath of a television expose concerning lead content in chips and a subsequent outcry from a health-and-safety citizen's group, 21 California casinos will soon convert to lead-free poker chips at their tables.
The story of the move to lead-free chips began with a November 2007 expose by an Arizona TV station that detailed high lead content found in chips manufactured by Paulson Gaming Supplies, recently renamed as Gaming Partners International. The expose detailed the high levels lead contained in many Paulson chips, specifically in the inner ingot at the heart of each chip that gives it its familiar heft. However, the report also implied that toxic levels of lead exposure could occur just by handling the chips, and the Arizona Department of Health Services issued a public alert, only to cancel it when its own testing could not replicate the TV station's findings.
According to a recent Las Vegas Sun story, "Independent tests showed it was physically impossible for either dealers or players to receive a harmful dose of lead by coming in contact with the chips." The television station, Channel 15 (ABC) in Phoenix, subsequently pulled the original story, though it recently touted its original expose in connection with the California chip change.
The chips, which remained in use at many major casinos nationwide, were then targeted in California by the Center for Environmental Health (CEHCA), a nonprofit group monitoring lead content among other health concerns. GPI chips are in use, according to a CEHCA release, at 28 of the 30 largest US casinos. CEHCA also alleges that the Paulson chips were made in Mexico and, in addition to within the ingot at each chip's core, lead was also used in the dyes used to make certain colors for some chips' exteriors.
After negotiations between CEHCA, GPI and the 21 California casinos using the chips, an agreement was reached where lead-free chips will be implemented no later than November 1, 2008. At that time the chips in use at the state's casinos will be required to contain no more than .005% lead, or one part in 20,000. Each of the casinos will also post a notice immediately stating that the current chips contain lead, along with specifying some of the health problems the toxic metal can cause. A list of the 21 casinos presently using the chips includes:
California Commerce Club, Inc.
Casino Poker Club
Club One Casino, Inc.
The 500 Club
Golden West Casino
Lake Bowl Cardroom
Limelight Card Rooms
Lucky Derby Casino
The Nineteenth Hole General Partnership
Ocean View Card Room
Palace Card Club
Phoenix Casino and Lounge, Inc.
The Players Club
Turlock Poker Room
Village Club Card Room