03/11/2005 12:00AM

Counterfeiters' success minimal


More than 6,500 residents per month move to Clark County, where Las Vegas is located. Many of them are lured by the long green that passes through the casinos here or the business opportunities that come with such growth. But along with the legitimate entrepreneurs come those who want to make their fortunes finding the cracks in the system.

According to the field office of the United States Secret Service in Las Vegas, approximately $30,000 to $50,000 in counterfeit cash flows through Las Vegas every week. The most popular vehicle for passing the bogus bills is the use of the cash acceptor devices on slot machines.

Slot manufacturers are always fighting the curve with counterfeiters. The machines must be sophisticated enough to identify the new money and the old versions, even the bills that are so flimsy you can almost see through them.

Recently, counterfeiters attempted to pass fake $10 bills through slot machines in Las Vegas. It was reported that approximately 100 bills made it through casino slot machines before they were discovered. The slot manufacturers quickly reprogrammed the victimized machines. The most recent detection was, by Las Vegas standards, a minor score for the crooks.

Slot machines are the most popular marks for crooks; live dealers are not. Casino workers continue to receive training on newly introduced bills and their anti-counterfeit features, such as water marks and hidden strips within the bills. They also handle so much cash that most casino workers could be blindfolded and feel the difference between counterfeit bills and the real U. S. currency. Experts say that although many counterfeit bills are computer-generated with realistic colors and detail, the texture of the plain-paper fake bills fail to match the threaded stock used by the U. S. Treasury.

Despite the thousand of slot machines being played 24/7 in this town, there has never been a major run of counterfeiting in Las Vegas. This is a direct tribute to the policing and constant diligence by slot manufacturers in the most stringently regulated gaming jurisdiction in the world.

Ralph Siraco is turf editor for the Las Vegas Sun and host of the Race Day Las Vegas radio show.