Macau Regulator Cracks Down on Casinos’ Use of Artificial Intelligence

  • Casinos in Macau can no longer use facial recognition technology
  • Regulator cites breach of privacy
  • Fears that house could spy on both players and casino staff
Young man's face in viewfinder
Facial recognition technology has been banned in Macau casinos due to privacy issues.

Operators asked to stop rollouts

Earlier in the summer, it was announced that some casinos in Macau had begun using facial recognition software. After an internal review, the Gaming Inspection and Coordination Bureau has asked operators to stop further rollouts.
 
This means that any digital surveillance equipment, such as cameras, with facial recognition software that the regulator has not authorized, must be taken off the premises.
 
While the full guidelines have not yet been made official, the bureau was under pressure to publish something publicly after a number of casinos started using facial recognition technology earlier this year.

Recognizing high rollers

The reason that big-name casinos such as Las Vegas Sands Corp and MGM Resorts International began to use the new technology was to recognize high rollers before they had even sat down to play. Operators were quick to say that these measures included additional perks such as a dedicated member of staff and personalized offers; however, regular casino visitors were worried that such techniques could be used for more unscrupulous means.
 
The data involved, collected from hidden cameras, digitally-enabled poker chips, and baccarat tables, was to be used in combination to map each potential gambler so that the house could analyze who was the most likely to lose money.

Breach of privacy

In June, it was said that around 200 tables were using this technology, but it was soon to be developed more broadly to more than 1000 in the region.
 

The regulator believes this is a breach of privacy and has now directed companies to comply with local privacy laws, including who is able to view any footage recorded, which must be kept only by the casino operators themselves.

 
The leap to artificial intelligence was made after a year in which income continued to fall with a significant drop in gaming revenue over the past year. Known as the world’s gambling hub, Macau is the only territory in China where gambling is legal.

Fraud prevention methods

While the regulator has yet to comment, casinos have defended their moves to include modern technology as “fraud preventive” measures, although workers were worried that the data could be used to analyze their behavior on the job and influence any decisions made about their career.
 
However, the recent step taken by the Bureau suggests that no more hidden cameras or digitally enhanced chips will be allowed unless they are first given the go-ahead once the regulatory body has inspected them.

None of the casinos in Macau has commented yet.