Close to 100 clubs already using the technology to prevent people with self-imposed bans from playing poker machines
A plan to roll out facial recognition technology in every pub and club in New South Wales has been criticised by the Greens, who say the “invasive” measure is an attempt to avoid further crackdowns on poker machines.
The Australian Hotels Association NSW and ClubsNSW say they are developing a state-of-the-art system to be rolled out across all clubs and hotels next year to keep people who have self-imposed bans away from poker machines.
Everyone in the gaming area will have their face scanned and the images will be cross-checked with people who have signed up for the self-exclusion system.
ClubsNSW chief executive Josh Landis said facial recognition technology was already in place in numerous NSW clubs and had been effective in preventing self-excluded patrons from accessing gaming machines.
“Close to 100 clubs are already using this technology and the feedback is that it works,” he said in a statement on Wednesday.
He said the technology would have strict privacy protections in place and no licensed venue will be able to access the facial recognition data.
“Clubs have a demonstrated commitment to protecting their members and patrons from gambling harm,” Landis said.
Australian Hotels Association NSW chief executive John Whelan said the move followed recent trials in six hotels and the success of a similar scheme in South Australia.
“Technology now allows us to accurately identify self-excluded problem gamblers and then stop them from gambling,” Whelan said.
But NSW Greens MP Cate Faehrmann said the move was “a sop to the powerful gambling industry”.
She called for the introduction of effective harm-reduction measures, including mandatory cashless gambling cards which would stop money laundering.
“Pokies operators are so scared of a mandatory gambling card that they’ve turned to invasive and inconsistent facial recognition technology instead,” she said.
“The NSW government has lost its mind if it thinks people want pubs and clubs to have self managed facial recognition tech. This is as terrifying as it is absurd.”
The Greens are also calling for a curfew on gambling machines operating between midnight and midday, $1 bet limits per spin on gambling machines and mandatory player-set time and spending limits for machines and online gambling.
In September, Tasmania announced it would become the first Australian state to introduce a mandatory gambling card for poker machines by the end of 2024. It would require all players to either pre-set a limit for losses, or accept the default of $100 per day and $5,000 per year.