Queensland-based facial recognition software developer Vix Vision is the newest vendor to be selected as a software solution provider for the South Australian government’s gambling register.
The contract follows the gambling reform package which was introduced to South Australia in December. The package requires that any venues operating thirty or more gambling or gaming machines (with at least one banknote-operated machine) install facial recognition software in their gaming rooms.
Facial recognition technology is expected to help venues identify barred patrons by alerting staff to their presence. Previously, venue staff were required to memorise the faces of barred patrons, allowing for a large margin of error. Automating this process is expected to lift the burden from venue staff and decrease the social impact of problem gambling.
To be approved for use in gaming venues, facial recognition software must be able to identify or verify a patron’s physical features using images captured through a fixed video source and send notifications to gambling providers when barred persons are identified.
To mitigate privacy concerns, Vix Vizion has insisted that its Imagus capture software only stores metadata which allows software to recognise individuals only if they have already been placed in the barring database by the venue, individual or concerned family member.
Facial recognition technology has been employed by over 230 gambling venues in South Australia, with more than 50 million biometric scans conducted under the program and over 1,700 barred patrons detected.
Of the eight government-approved facial recognition technology vendors available for licensed venues to choose from, Vix Vizion’s Imagus platform is reportedly the most popular. Since its acquisition of the contract in May, Vix Vision has reported that more than 80 per cent of gaming venues in South Australia had selected to adopt its software. Other approved vendors include Torutek, Motorola Solutions and RealNetworks Australia, with an additional three providers pending approval.
There is no single statute or authority which regulates gambling activities in Australia. Gambling is, instead, regulated at both the state/territory and federal level. According to Gordon Ramsay, former ACT attorney-general and current chief executive of the Alliance for Gambling Reform, Australia is not doing enough to prevent and reduce problem gambling.
The former ACT government minister urges that enforcing bet limits and placing caps on the hours that machines are played are the first steps to effectively reducing gambling addiction in Australia.
NSW has recently been making rapid reforms to gambling regulation after the chairman of the NSW Independent Liquor and Gaming Authority stated that the newly-opened Crown Casino was not fit to hold a casino license. Crown Resorts, in response, has agreed to restrict entry for high-spending international visitors, introduce cashless gambling and abolish indoor smoking.
The introduction of facial recognition technology in SA venues sets the path for the government’s utilisation of emerging technologies in combating problem gambling. However, while this technology may help to identify problem gamblers, it does little to address the recommendations set by Ramsay and other gambling authorities.