NZ gaming machine sector complains govt won’t fund facial recognition

The ministry says its funding of the technology would be inappropriate.
The ministry says its funding of the technology would be inappropriate.

Peter Dengate Thrush, chairman of the Gaming Machine Association, has said some funds collected from the problem gambling levy should be used to help companies install the facial recognition cameras.

New Zealand.- The New Zealand Gaming Machines Association has complained that the national Ministry of Health has refused to help fund facial recognition software for gambling machines. The association had called on the government to give some of the money it collects from the problem gambling levy on pokies back to operators to pay for the software.

GMA chairman Peter Dengate Thrush said: “There are 148 facial recognition systems already installed in venues across New Zealand. The class 4 industry – the societies – spent $3.5m themselves because they don’t want problem gamblers in their venues.”

However, a spokeswoman for the Ministry of Health said it “would not be appropriate for the Ministry of Health to fund software licences for gambling venues”.

She added: “Venues receive a commission payment of up to 16 per cent of gaming machine profits to meet the operational costs of hosting gambling. This includes the costs associated with meeting harm minimisation requirements.”

She also pointed out that the ministry funded a database that has the capability to securely store photos to support facial recognition systems, “making it easier for venues to incorporate these into their systems.”

A month ago, Thrush questioned a plan to increase the Problem Gambling budget from NZ$60.3m to NZ$76.1m (US$50.8m) over the next three years.

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