David Fisher

David Fisher is a senior reporter for the NZ Herald.

Facial recognition technology to nab casino's banned gamblers

All people in the casino would be subject to scanning. Photo / Russel Smith
All people in the casino would be subject to scanning. Photo / Russel Smith

SkyCity casino is bringing in facial recognition technology to pluck banned gamblers out of a crowd - a cash-for-convention centre concession claimed by Auckland Mayor Len Brown.

The technology will be able to match a database of known problem gamblers with people attempting to or actually gambling at the casino.

Mr Brown said it could be rolled out across all pokies in bars and clubs in Auckland, reducing the number of pokie addicts who gambled.

SkyCity government relations manager Gordon Jon Thompson said the casino company was "committed to trialling new technologies to assist us to better detect barred problem gamblers from entering our venue".

A special law will be written allowing SkyCity gambling concessions in return for it paying for and running the $400 million convention centre.

The deal, which must be signed by this Sunday, includes almost 500 extra electronic gaming machines, an extension to its exclusive Auckland licence and more easily transferable ways of handling cash in the casino.

Mr Brown said the original deal between the Government and SkyCity showed "there was more work to be done" in dealing with "the harm from providing more pokie machines as part of that deal".

"I'm supportive of the deal to the extent it is providing us with a convention centre. I certainly feel ... we're dealing as best we could with the consequences of the decision.

"Facial recognition technology is in my view part of a much better package of harm minimisation measures that would genuinely minimise harm to the family by ... genuine problem gamblers."

Mr Brown said SkyCity was a "good, responsive corporate citizen" for the way it received his facial recognition proposal.

He said the SkyCity use of the technology would effectively work as a trial for pokie machines across Auckland, which the council was responsible for regulating. Problem Gambling Foundation chief executive Graeme Ramsey said he wanted more from SkyCity although facial recognition could be a "useful tool".

Economic Development Minister Steven Joyce said he was "pleased to endorse the approach that Len and SkyCity have discussed".

How it works

1. SkyCity scans in a photograph of a banned problem gambler, either self-barred or excluded by the casino company.
2. All people in the casino are subject to scanning, picking up identifying facial features and movements.
3. The scanner references those in the scanner against the same distinctive features on photographs of banned gamblers.
4. Any match of the banned gambler with someone inside the casino alerts security to a possible barred person.

- NZ Herald

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