Kings of clean | Sammamish couple operates unique casino supply business

The famed neon lights and bustling streets of the Las Vegas Strip are far from 228th Avenue in Sammamish. But they’re closer than one might think.

Ralph Bell owns one of just three companies worldwide who specializes in cleaning casino chips.

Ralph Bell owns one of just three companies worldwide who specializes in cleaning casino chips.

The famed neon lights and bustling streets of the Las Vegas Strip are far from 228th Avenue in Sammamish.

But they’re closer than one might think.

For the last 14 years, Ralph and Cathy Bell have operated Diamond Casino Products from their quiet Sammamish neighborhood, selling cleaning solutions and machines to some of the gaming industry’s biggest casinos.

Anyone who has played games in establishments like the Bellagio, MGM Grand or Harrah’s has touched a chip, card or table effected by the Bell’s product  — and they’re probably grateful.

“When the chips get dirty, they get sticky and they’re just very unsightly,” Ralph said. “With the bacteria and the germs, it’s just really nasty.”

Before moving to Washington in 1985, Ralph worked eight years as a Las Vegas card dealer. He followed by opening successful video rental stores in Kirkland and Sammamish before venturing back into the gaming industry in 1998 when he purchased the rights to Zip’s Card Cleaning System  — a machine that specializes in cleaning plastic poker cards.

It was there, through networking, he found another opportunity  — an untapped market of sorts.

“At this time there was nobody cleaning chips,” Ralph said. “We found this company that had a patented solution that was sodium based, not soap based. It cleaned the chip, it removed all the oil and grease, dirt and germs and all this stuff. It made it brand new again.”

Ralph purchased the sole rights to sell the solution from the manufacturer, which is based out of San Luis Obispo, Calif.

“They don’t want to sell it, we don’t want to make it,” Ralph said. “It’s a nice marriage.”

Diamond Casino Products currently has between 300 and 400 clients, selling cleaning machines and solutions to regional casinos like Snoqualmie and Muckleshoot and to others as far away as Peru and Australia.

Ralph said there are only two other competitors worldwide who do similar work. He said the major difference  is his solution does 90 percent of the cleaning and doesn’t contain soap.

“It’s not toxic, it’s not hazardous, it’s not harmful, there’s no smell, there’s no taste, it’s very safe, but very effective,” Ralph said.

A chip cleaning machine, which provides the finishing touches, holds about 80 chips and it cleans about a chip every second.

The patented products aren’t available to the general public, but they do sell to a few private chip collectors.

While the majority of calls come from casinos, Ralph recently had an interesting experience when his phone started ringing off the hook in the wee hours of the morning.

Somehow his 1-800 number got mixed up with a voting line for an Indian game show, “Dance India Dance.” The calls resulted in one month’s worth of charges at nearly $4,000, forcing him to temporarily shut down his business line and call King 5’s consumer watchdog Jesse Jones. The “Get Jesse” experience resulted in AT&T’s removal of all charges and quite the memory.

“This thing with Jesse was just hysterical,” he said.

Of course, Ralph would gladly take legitimate work-related calls at 3 a.m. if it meant more people using his product. He said that there are a large number of casinos out there who never clean their chips, or don’t do it frequently enough  — something to keep in mind when sitting down at the poker table.

“A lot places will replace their chips every 10 to 12 years, but in the meantime it’s just dirty, grease, germs, oil, bacteria,” he said. “It’s scary what’s on there.”

 


In consideration of how we voice our opinions in the modern world, we’ve closed comments on our websites. We value the opinions of our readers and we encourage you to keep the conversation going.

Please feel free to share your story tips by emailing editor@issaquahreporter.com.

To share your opinion for publication, submit a letter through our website https://www.issaquahreporter.com/submit-letter/. Include your name, address and daytime phone number. (We’ll only publish your name and hometown.) We reserve the right to edit letters, but if you keep yours to 300 words or less, we won’t ask you to shorten it.

More in Business

Snoqualmie Casino. Courtesy photo
Kirkland-based company sues to challenge ‘tribal gaming monopoly’ in Washington

Company called the state’s policy an “erroneous application of the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act.”

Robert Toomey, CFA/CFP, is Vice President of Research for S. R. Schill & Associates on Mercer Island.
The forces behind our current COVID-induced inflation | Guest column

Recent inflation numbers have been quite high and at levels not seen… Continue reading

Robert Toomey, CFA/CFP, is Vice President of Research for S. R. Schill & Associates on Mercer Island.
The ‘year end’ elements of financial planning | Guest column

With the end of the year fast approaching, we remind clients that… Continue reading

Formula Brewing is at 1875 NW Poplar Way in Issaquah. Learn more at www.formulabrewing.com. Courtesy photo
Issaquah’s first brewery and beer garden specializes in lagers – with love for IPAs

Formula Brewing also offers food including wings, pizza, Bavarian pretzels and salad.

Robert Toomey, CFA/CFP, is Vice President of Research for S. R. Schill & Associates on Mercer Island.
How financial planners address plan uncertainty | Guest column

One of the key challenges we face as financial planners is dealing… Continue reading

The results are in!
Best of Issaquah 2021 results

We had almost 1,100 voters and 12,000 submissions. Most popular categories: Best Coffee Shop, Customer Service, Hamburgers, Non-Profit, Fine Dining, Park, Mexican Cuisine, Pizza, Family Restaurant and Lunch.

Mixologist and general manager of Civility & Unrest, Joe Dietrich (photo by Cameron Sheppard)
If you want a regular cocktail, go somewhere else

Master mixologist Joe Dietrich is elevating cocktail culture at Bellevue’s Civility & Unrest.

Robert Toomey, CFA/CFP, is Vice President of Research for S. R. Schill & Associates on Mercer Island.
Is cryptocurrency really an investment? | Guest column

Undoubtedly you have heard about the new form of money known as… Continue reading

Front bar at Bellevue’s Civility & Unrest (courtesy of Civility & Unrest)
Two of James Beard Award-winning chef Jason Wilson’s restaurants to reopen in October

The Lakehouse plans to reopen Oct. 12 and Civility & Unrest reopens Oct. 14.

Stock photo
Grocery store workers have right to wear Black Lives Matter buttons

National Labor Relations Board ruling against ban by Kroger-owned QFC, Fred Meyer

Big Island Poke in Renton (courtesy of The Intentionalist Facebook page)
Small-business advocacy group wants you to try minority-owned businesses and put it on their tab

The Intentionalist is opening up $400 tabs for folks to use this weekend at select businesses.

Eastside King County restaurant owners discuss challenges with U.S. Rep Suzan DelBene at Pomegranate Bistro in Redmond. (Photo credit: Cameron Sheppard/Sound Publishing)
Restaurant owners discuss labor difficulties with U.S Rep. Suzan DelBene

Experienced service and kitchen staff are reportedly hard to hire as food service reopens.