Tabcorp, one of Australia’s largest gambling providers, is looking to equip facial recognition technology at its betting agencies to potentially identify and prevent underage gamblers.
According to local gambling news sources, the company recently completed an eight-week trial run at three of its betting agencies in Melbourne. The AI-backed software was tested to see if it could identify underage customers who would try to place bets. Tabcorp plans on rolling out this software to 400 of its betting agencies starting in mid-2020.
During the trial period, the software used footage from the video cameras at the entrance of the agencies to scan the facial features of every customer who entered the premises. This data was analyzed to determine the features and characteristics which could identify patrons below the age of 25. If the software detected a customer below the age of 25, a notification was sent to the staff at the front window along with an image. These locations allow customers to place bets at kiosks, meaning that they do not interact with employees who could otherwise verify their age, and thus such measures are important in trying to detect and prevent underage gambling. All three venues had notices posted outside informing potential customers of the use of AI-powered surveillance inside the premises. The legal betting age in Australia is 18 years and above.
Tabcorp has invested a significant amount of money into this initiative. They selected Australian machine-learning and AI firm Eliiza as the vendor for the software. One of the biggest challenges in implementing this measure is to ensure that privacy obligations are met. Customers may need to be given the option to ‘opt-in’, to allow the software to scan their facial features; doing so without their consent could violate privacy laws.
Tabcorp is not the first gambling company to use biometrics and facial recognition. In neighboring New Zealand, SkyCity Entertainment Group has started using facial recognition software to try to identify problem gamblers, since November 2019. Major casinos in the gambling hub of Macau are also using facial recognition to track their largest spenders. However, authorities issued a directive earlier in 2019 barring casinos from using facial recognition tools and other digital surveillance unless they had obtained regulatory approval.
Facial recognition and AI are the next step in the gambling industry, both to protect underage and problematic gamblers, as well as identify big spenders and repeat customers to improve performance. However, privacy concerns are paramount, and companies must ensure that these are adhered to before using such tools.