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Technology help for problem gamblers,Facial recognition installed at pokie venues as deterrent

Facial recognition technology will be used to help problem gamblers from losing money in Gisborne pokie machines.

New Zealand Community Trust chief executive Mike Knell said the NZCT had installed the technology at all six of its Gisborne gaming venues to help problem gamblers who had excluded themselves.

“NZCT understands and accepts a duty of care towards gambling patrons and our legal obligation to help problem gamblers exclude themselves from our venues.”

Facial recognition technology is an important innovation for helping self-identified problem gamblers stay out of temptation’s way by stopping them getting into gaming rooms from which they have chosen to exclude themselves.

“Although there is a relatively small number of excluded problem gamblers and the costs of the technology are high, with government agency and stakeholder support we’re hopeful that having the technology widespread will bring forward more people who could be at risk, to seek help from problem gambling service providers.”

The technology was successfully trialled by gaming societies at several venues around the country, including those belonging to NZCT, and became fully operational last year.

It works by capturing the person’s image by a video camera as they enter the gaming room. The image is then sent to the central database of excluded people.

The database returns an alert to the venue that the system has identified an excluded gambler. A member of the venue staff then approaches the gambler, checks their ID and removes them from the venue.

“We are pleased with the positive results to date and NZCT is progressively installing the technology at our own expense in venues,” Mr Knell said.

“Nine of our venues outside the Gisborne area have the technology operating so far, with excellent outcomes.

“This new cluster will make 15 in total.

“We will monitor the Gisborne venues and how many attempted breaches of exclusion orders the facial recognition technology identifies.

“We expect that having this technology in all our Gisborne venues will be a strong motivator to self-excluded gamblers to stop gambling in our gaming rooms.”

NZCT’s gaming rooms in Gisborne are at Aladdin’s Bar and Tavern, Bar 59, Bollywood Stars, Brezz’n Sports Bar, Shipwreck and Sugar.

NZCT is encouraging the operators of the other two gaming venues in Gisborne to consider installing the technology.

Ka Pai Kaiti chairwoman Lizz Crawford welcomed the move.

“Facial recognition is one step toward harm minimisation,” she said. “It is not proactive in terms of picking up a person who may frequently gamble to a point where they are experiencing problem gambling.

“It is strictly a tool for those who have excluded themselves from pokie play.”

However, she pointed out no other forms of gambling were covered by the technology.

“I acknowledge the step that casinos in New Zealand are taking with facial recognition because their pokie machines do not have the protective factors that some pub and club pokies have such as jackpot limits.

“It is a concern then that casinos are allowed to apply for an exchange of table games for pokies.

“Facial recognition in casinos ought to assist with host responsibility, which is sorely lacking in both reports of the Department of Internal Affairs, neither of which assessed Gisborne venues.

“Online gambling is increasingly topical and it will be interesting to see if facial recognition will move into this space and jointly have multi-venue exclusions available as a self-help tool online — not only for the person experiencing problem gambling but for their family or whanau to be able to exclude them too when they suffer harm.”