Facial recognition technology: evaluation will be crucial

26 Jun, 2013
Facial recognition technology will be trialled at SkyCity to identify banned problem gamblers.

Professor Max Abbott, director of AUT University’s Gambling and Addictions Research Centre, has commended Mayor Len Brown and SkyCity on the decision to trial facial recognition technology to identify banned problem gamblers.

“No other casino in the world has introduced facial recognition technology, electronic monitoring and ‘pre-commitment’ to time and/or expenditure limits together.  It is ground-breaking and could raise the bar across all gambling settings and forms,” Professor Abbott said.

“However, as with many things, the devil is in the detail.  While promising, it is not known how effective these measures are and much will depend on how casino staff act on the information they obtain about patrons.  Independent monitoring and evaluation is essential to determine whether or not these initiatives are effective and how they might be improved over time.”

“At worst they could just be window dressing with little real impact other than giving the illusion that something positive is being done. At best they could be highly effective, preventing some people from developing problems and assisting others to recover.

”Research carried out in the AUT Gambling and Addictions Research Centre has shown that venue-initiated and self-initiated banning helps some problem gamblers overcome their problems.  However, many breach their ban and go undetected.

“Facial recognition technology is improving all the time and should significantly improve detection and enforcement,” Professor Abbott said.

Professor Abbott said he agreed with Mr Brown that there was potential to extend the use of this technology to pokies in pubs and clubs.

“This extension is important because that is where most pokies are located and the majority of problem gamblers develop problems through this type of gambling.  Furthermore, they are concentrated in lower socioeconomic neighbourhoods.  A half of problem gamblers live in the 20% most deprived areas.  This contributes to health and social inequalities.

“The addition of facial recognition to other harm minimisation measures that Sky City is introducing as part of the convention centre deal could well reduce health and social costs associated with casino gambling.  Banning and better detection are mainly directed at serious problem gamblers.  Electronic monitoring and ‘pre-commitment’ to time and/or expenditure limits have the potential to detect people who have yet to develop problems but are at risk.”

For more information or to interview Professor Abbott please contact Esther Harward, AUT Communications Manager, phone 09 921 9688 or email esther.harward@aut.ac.nz

AUT Gambling and Addictions Research Centre

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