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Mixed reactions as Australia’s NSW politicians eye facial recognition for gaming industry

Mixed reactions as Australia’s NSW politicians eye facial recognition for gaming industry

Both Liberal and Labor party politicians in the Australian State of New South Wales (NSW) say the deployment of facial recognition technology is part of their gaming reform packages ahead of State election in March.

NSW voters go the polls on 25 March to elect a new Parliament.

What the politicians are unclear about, however, is which facial recognition technology providers they intend to contract, according to multiple reports.

According to iTnews, opposition Labor leader Chris Minns announced last month that if his party wins, the use of facial recognition in gaming venues across the state will be mandatory. The party’s shadow minister for digital Yasmin Catley tells the publication that issues concerning approval by the NSW Independent Liquor and Gaming Authority and deployment of the various systems would be addressed in legislation.

Other proposals in the Labor party’s gambling reform package include setting up a third-party register to identify money launderers at gaming venues and a pilot for cashless gaming cards, a proposal which has been opposed by some industry stakeholders.

The proposal from the political party comes after ClubsNSW — a lobby group working for the interest of clubs and pubs in Australia – raised concerns that a State government push for the introduction of facial recognition in gaming venues to identify problem gamblers who had opted for a State self-exclusion program could be expanded to other uses.

About 100 pubs and clubs had deployed the technology on voluntary basis by October, according to ClubsNSW.

Following proposals by the political parties for the introduction of facial recognition in the gaming industry, some observers have expressed concerns that the system could be used to induce gaming. A university professor told iTnews that rich or VIP gamblers at gaming venues are already identified with facial recognition in order for them to stake more money.

Catley has however allayed those fears saying the draft regulation to guide the reform will prevent the technology’s use in encouraging more gambling.

Reports suggest the proposal by NSW politicians is similar to steps taken by authorities of the State of South Australia in 2020 ordering the deployment of facial recognition technology in gaming venues for people who had opted for a self-exclusion scheme.

However, while the system is deployed only for venues with 30 or more gaming machines, the reform of the Labor party in NSW seeks to make it mandatory for every single gaming house.

Also, apart from fears of using the facial recognition technology to ‘induce’ gaming among VIP gamblers, other concerns touch on data privacy and security as well as biases and inaccuracies in results from facial recognition systems. Those concerns are in part informed by a government review last year of a system deployed by one venue, the Star Entertainment Group, according to iTnews.

Labor argues that the reform measures including the use of facial recognition are generally meant to make gaming venues safer and to encourage responsible gambling practices.

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