NSW Pubs, Clubs to Use Facial Recognition Tech to ID Self-Excluded Gamblers

  • People on the NSW Multi-Venue Self-Exclusion scheme have already provided a photo
  • Tests showed the technology could identify people even if they were wearing masks or glasses
  • The technology will only identify self-excluded gamblers when they enter a gaming venue
  • One politician believes the initiative doesn’t do enough to tackle gambling addiction
Facial recognition
NSW pubs and clubs are beginning to roll out facial recognition technology to identify self-excluded gamblers. [Image: Shutterstock.com]

Utilizing the tech

All clubs and pubs in New South Wales (NSW), Australia, are set to roll out facial recognition technology at their establishments next year to help identify self-excluded gamblers. Anyone who has become a part of the NSW Multi-Venue Self-Exclusion scheme has already provided an image of themselves and permitted it to be used for such a purpose.

help improve the identification of problem gamblers

Australian Hotels Association (AHA) NSW director of liquor and policing John Green believes that the rollout of the facial recognition technology will help improve the identification of problem gamblers. Commenting on the need for such technology, he said: “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.”

Green went on to claim that the technology can even identify people who are wearing masks, glasses, and those trying to avoid being spotted.

Powerful technology

As part of the new initiative, when a person enters a gaming venue, the cameras will scan their face. The image will then be compared to the self-exclusion database. If the technology identifies a problem gambler, an alert goes to the staff at the venue who will then be able to intervene. This will supposedly have no impact on regular patrons.

Gambling is massively popular in Australia, especially through gaming machines called ‘pokies’. Gaming losses per adult in the country are more than in any other nation.

The AHA has worked alongside the clubs representative body ClubsNSW on this project. The technology is already in place at around 100 different NSW gaming venues. Similar technology is in place at about 300 venues in South Australia. A survey among self-excluded gamblers found that 85% of them were in favor of facial recognition technology.

Some skepticism

NSW Gaming Minister Kevin Anderson hailed the initiative, believing that it will really help self-excluded gamblers. Others were not as supportive. Greens MP Cate Faehrmann claimed that the technology will not help to reduce overall gambling harm as it only targets self-excluded gamblers. She thinks it’s an attempt by ClubsNSW to avoid the introduction of a cashless gaming card.

gamblers would need to load funds onto the cashless card

Back in 2020, a former NSW gaming minister proposed the introduction of a cashless gaming card. Through the system, gamblers would need to load funds onto the cashless card via a debit card. the cashless card ultimately did not get sufficient support.

There is now a trial of a digital gaming wallet ongoing in NSW. It is an opt-in scheme that sees people using funds from a digital wallet to gamble, with the app linked to a bank account.