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Ensuring fair gambling the latest application for facial recognition at sporting events


The United States Tennis Association (USTA) has an unusual motivation for the use of facial recognition reported by ESPN; identifying “courtsiders” who transmit match information to gamblers and data brokers faster than official sources to give them an underhanded edge in wagers.

The USTA recently disclosed that 19 courtsiders were caught, ejected, and served trespass notices in 2016, and at least one was arrested last year, according to the report, despite the offenders using false moustaches and other disguises.

The issue is also a challenge for other sports, who may also consider leveraging facial recognition technology, and may even collaborate with USTA to do so.

“We remain open-minded about investigating economies of scale with other professional sports and law enforcement agencies related to enhanced enforcement of integrity strictures,” the USTA wrote in its disclosure.

The USTA has had a deal to license live streaming and data to monetize betting data since at least 2012, and began deploying signage at certain USTA events to inform spectators about the use of photographs to prevent data transmission for commercial or gambling purposes earlier this year.

“We were worried about the facial recognition from 2012 onward,” said Brad Hutchins, the author of “Game Set Cash! Inside the Secret World of International Tennis Trading,” a recent book about live tennis betting. “They suddenly got so quick at catching us we assumed that had to be what was helping.”

The same technology may be used for multiple purposes, as PCMag.com reported last year that USTA uses facial recognition to search for celebrities in the crowd.

NEC facial recognition is already being deployed at LPGA events, and will be used at the Tokyo 2020 Olympics. ESPN reports that both Major League Baseball and the National Football League have made statements expressing a need to protect their properties from commercial data collection.

Biometrics have also been increasingly deployed at MLB and NFL stadiums to make concessions purchases faster and more convenient, and the technology will be piloted for stadium entry next year.

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