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Aussie pols pushing against facial recognition in gambling rooms; industry favors it

Aussie pols pushing against facial recognition in gambling rooms; industry favors it

An effort in Australia promoted as a new way to help gamblers who cannot stop themselves from wagering is not going over well with some privacy advocates.

The initiative, reportedly favored by the gambling industry, would put facial recognition cameras in casinos, bars, hotels, clubs and eateries nationwide that also have digital poker machines, or pokies.

The goal is to help business owners and employees spot people who have taken official steps to exclude themselves from gambling in licensed establishments.

If successful, backers would have people who want to self-ban submit a digital picture of themselves. The photo would be stored on a nationwide database. Using face biometrics and ID verification systems, cameras in designated locations would scan everyone’s face, flagging anyone on the database.

Today, people in much of the country can self-exclude and present a physical photo, which is shared among gambling locations where staff watch for the individuals and try to dissuade them from playing games of chance.

A gambling reform advocate told Vice that the deployment of facial recognition is an industry effort to get ahead of a report due next month on money laundering in the state’s pubs and clubs.

A system like the one described by planners of a national campaign already is in place in about 100 gambling clubs in the state of New South Wales with expansion planned, according to publisher News.com.au.

And while some in the industry support the move, the NSW Greens political party has criticized it, according to an article in news publication The Guardian. The party is calling for mandatory gambling cards instead.

The article quotes Josh Landis, CEO of the association ClubsNSW, saying that venue owners approve of it. The head of the Australian Hotels Association in NSW reportedly told The Guardian that six hotels had successfully piloted the system.

Landis said a national rollout would require severe privacy protections that prevent anyone at any venue from seeing facial recognition data.

Vendors of systems already in place are not named in reports. The same goes for future hardware and software deployments.

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