Australia: Clubs ACT proposes trial of facial recognition technology

Facial recognition systems are already being used at gambling venues in South Australia.
Facial recognition systems are already being used at gambling venues in South Australia.

It’s intended that self-excluded problem gamblers would benefit from the technology.

Australia.- Clubs ACT CEO Craig Shannon has proposed a trial of facial recognition software, in order to keep problem gamblers out of Canberra clubs. The technology would trigger an alert if someone who has registered for self-exclusion enters a venue’s gaming area.

Shannon said the system would only be installed in venues’ gaming areas, allowing those who signed up for exclusion to continue using the food and bar areas. He pointed out that currently, self-excluded players may be missed if they enter the gaming area from the restaurant or bar when staff are busy.

Facial recognition technology has already been installed in more than 80 per cent of gambling venues in South Australia, including casinos and clubs.

Shannon said: “The system is based around the idea that an individual who chooses to self-exclude from a club, who is already part of the self-exclusion regime, would be photographed if they went into a gambling area only.”

However, the proposal raised some doubts about privacy and consent. Attorney-General Shane Rattenbury said: “I’m not clear that’s the best way forward.”

Rattenbury added: “We’ve certainly encouraged the clubs to engage with the Gambling and Racing Commission to talk about the details of that, to consider restrictions and privacy legislation. Also, whether their customers really want this or whether there are other ways we might actually seek to minimise gambling harm.”

The South Australian Consumer and Business Services (CBS), said venues must notify self-excluding customers that a record of their facial image will be made through the new facial recognition system. Casino operators were warned they cannot use the system to encourage patrons to gamble, for example by using them to offer special bonuses or other incentives. 

According to Aino Suomi, director of the Australian National University Centre for Gambling Research, there are few published studies about the use of facial recognition technology to prevent gambling issues in Australia. However, she said there had been some promising results.

Elsewhere, Australia is working on different options to control gambling behaviour. In July, the government of New South Wales announced a plan to introduce cashless gaming machines. Wests Group’s Newcastle club will be the first venue to test the new cashless technology for three months. The trial will begin with 38 slot machines from Aristocrat Leisure.

The cashless technology will be linked to the player’s identity and bank account. It also involves a Bluetooth connection between the player’s phone and the machine, allowing funds to be transferred directly from the phone to the machine.

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