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Facial-recognition software to keep problem gamblers away

Sunday 11 Nov 2012 5:37 p.m.

By Alex Bourn

A secret camera system using facial-recognition software is being hailed as the solution to keep problem gamblers from the pokies.

The new technology, created by a Hamilton company, is inspired by airport customs SmartGate technology.

On the surface they seem like ordinary pokie machines, but inside, a hidden camera takes a photo of the player and identifies whether they are a problem gambler.

“The machine will take maybe one or two seconds to check their face and life goes on as normal,” says Paul Andrew of company Gaming Inc. “However, for someone who is in the database, the system will recognise them and instantly disable the machine.”

The $15 million system works from photos, which at present are provided by problem gamblers themselves as a way to curb their gaming addiction.

Mr Andrew says it's an overnight solution.

“The problem is problem gamblers,” he says. “There's a massive majority of people who play pokies who don't have a problem and we don't believe they should be negatively impacted by some of the technology being talked about. This system only addresses problem gamblers.”

The Problem Gambling Foundation says while the new technology is very promising, there are difficulties when it comes to recognising people who have a gambling problem as there is no national database with the collated information.

But Mr Andrew says a universal database of photographs needs to be administered, which means bar owners won't have to do their own manual checks every 15 minutes.

“We have to organise the photos and we have to point it out, ‘sorry, we can help you out, don't play the game’,” says Albany Sports Bar managing director Amrit Singh. “So when the software comes it will make our lives easier.”

The software will be trialled in pubs over the next three months and if successful, it could be inserted into more than 18,000 pokie machines throughout the country.

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