Australia: Facial recognition technology to be installed in NSW venues to help identify self-excluded gamblers


New South Wales gaming floors will install facial recognition technology to improve identification of those wishing to self-exclude, enhancing safe gambling in the region. Cameras will be rolled out in pubs and clubs across the state from 2023 onwards to help identify problem gamblers who have opted in to the state’s Multi-Venue Self-Exclusion scheme. 

The scheme already uses digital images to identify problem gamblers and ban them from entering gaming venues. Those who have joined the program have supplied their own image and have given full consent to it being stored.

Cameras are set to scan customers’ faces as they enter a venue and compare their images to a database of problem gamblers who have agreed to be part of the self-exclusion scheme. Should a problem gambler be identified, an alert will be sent to venue staff who can intervene and refer the person to support services. 

The technology is a joint venture between ClubsNSW and the Australian Hotels Association in New South Wales, and will eventually be installed across the state. It is already being used in around 100 venues across NSW and follows a similar scheme in South Australia where it is used in 300 venues.

John Green, director of liquor and policing for the Australian Hotels Association in New South Wales, stated the addition of facial recognition technology would improve identification, ABC Australia reported. 

People can change over time and using facial recognition technology just makes sure we’ve got the best chance of identifying those people as they enter. We’ve tested how it operates and quite frankly it can identify people wearing masks, wearing glasses and trying to avoid detection,” he said.

ClubsNSW CEO Josh Landis also added that the technology would only identify problem gamblers and would not impact other customers. “This is designed in a targeted way to help those who have a problem,” he assured. 

We believe it’s critical to support those people that have a problem in a targeted way where ordinary people are not affected. They can enjoy their pub or club the way that they ordinarily would — but the people who have a problem are genuinely looked after to ensure they get the help that they need,” he said, as reported by the cited source.

Green said a survey of self-excluded gamblers found that 85% supported the use of facial recognition. “It really is effective at identifying those people who want to be excluded and want our help,” he noted. “This is about improving the process that we’ve already got in place, but using the latest technology, to ensure that we are doing as much as we can to get them the treatment they need.”

NSW Gaming Minister Kevin Anderson stated the initiative would help people gain control over their addiction, and added that proactively self-excluding is “a big step” for many at-risk gamblers. “This technology will mean venues can help patrons to stop gambling and get the support they need,” he noted.

In 2020, former NSW gaming minister Victor Dominello introduced a proposal for a compulsory cashless gambling card, which would require all gamblers to load money onto a debit card. The idea was later scrapped in favor of a “digital wallet”, an opt-in scheme that would allow people to gamble using funds from a digital wallet on their smartphone linked to their bank account.

The digital wallet is currently being trialed by Aristocrat Gaming on 36 poker machines at the Wests club in Newcastle and allows users to set spending limits or self-exclude from gambling.

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