Poker Face: Problem Gamblers Being Identified through Facial Recognition Technology

By Cameron Abbott, Max Evans and James Gray

Facial Recognition Technology (FRT) is being used by the popular SkyCity Adelaide Casino to detect barred gamblers, according to a report by Adelaide Now.

The FRT is capable of identifying even those attempting to conceal their identities with hats and sunglasses, with one staff member detected by her smile. According to the report, casino staff escorted barred gamblers off premises following identification using the FRT, before asking the relevant gambler whether they are in contact with their counsellors. The report states that detected problem gamblers were almost always appreciative of staff’s intervention.

The capacity for FRT to address social ills such as problem gambling appears to have been acknowledged by the legislature, with the report indicating that changes mandating the use of FRT in gambling venues may be on the way. Individuals will be added to the Consumer and Business Services database of barred gamblers at their own request or where the Gambling Commissioner believes the person will cause serious harm to themselves or their family. We think the detection of roughly one barred gambler per week has made SkyCity’s investment in FRT worthwhile.

However, despite the rehabilitative value of FRT with respect to addressing problem gambling, ethical concerns have been raised by those who feel that such surveillance measures are evocative of oppressive, Orwellian regimes. Indeed, we acknowledge the potential for authoritarian controllers to misuse such technology by limiting the freedoms of their subjects. Further concerns have been expressed about the technology’s efficacy, as Forbes reports that a trial of facial recognition technology by the London Metropolitan Police had a success rate of just 19%.

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