New Zealand is testing facial recognition technology called “The Guardian” to screen for problem gamblers. Fifteen different gaming facilities throughout the country are being equipped with Guardian tech to see how effective facial recognition screening is.

Facial recognition scans appear to be the future of casino security. Melco Entertainment has promised to install MelGuard facial scan technology in their casino, if the Japanese government gives a license for a Japanese casino to Melco.

According to voxy.co.nz, the Guardian matches a person’s face against a voluntary photo database of problem gamblers.

In the case of the Guardian system devised by COMS Systems and Torutek, the entire process is voluntary. To have one’s face appear in the database, a bettor must sign up for a self-exclusion list. When that person next tries to enter a casino, then the Guardian system is designed to spot them.

How Self-Exclusion Bans Work

Self-exclusion lists are a way a problem gambler can bar themselves from a casino or gaming website. In the compulsive bettor’s quieter moments, the person chooses to self-ban by signing up for the database. Later, when the urge to gamble strikes the person, they are banned from all gaming venues in a jurisdiction.

With the Guardian system, the person must self-ban and provide a photo to the facial recognition database. When entering a land-based casino, security video scans the person’s face the way an iPhone 10 would, then compares it against the photos in the database. If a match is found, casino staff escorts the person from the building.

The Guardian Facial Recognition System

Two New Zealand companies, Torutek and COMS Systems, have partnered on the Guardian system. Coms Systems provides security technology for roughly 50% of New Zealand’s 1200 gaming venues.

The Guardian system is two iterations more advanced than previous systems for screening problem gamblers. Many casinos still post photos of problem gamblers on a pin board for employees to quickly memorize, so they can spot them when they enter the casino — or check for reference if the staff member suspects problem gambling.

Even the casinos which use electronic means to track problem gamblers deal with the problem of a bettor who does not want to be spotted. Such people naturally will try to disguise their identity, even if they signed up for a self-exclusion list. Torutek and COMS claim their technology is designed to compensate for people’s attempts to change their facial readout with beards, mustaches, different length or color hair, sunglasses, and hats. Guardian therefore is a technology which adapts to punters who want to fool the scan.

About COMS Systems

Paul Andrew, systems director at COMS, said the Kiwi casino industry wants to assure that problem gamblers are protected — despite New Zealand having a low rate of gambling addiction.

Mr. Andrew said, “While New Zealand has one of the lowest problem gambling rates in the world we still need to explore better ways to help people who identify or are identified as problem gamblers.”

The COMS Systems spokesman added, “Guardian is a pro-active industry-wide initiative. It’s not something that has been imposed, but an additional measure on top of the industry’s already stringent harm minimisation measures.”

About Torutek Limited

Chris Yu of Torutek said the Guardian is designed to comply with all New Zealand gaming laws. Torutek Limited, which designed key elements of the facial recognition software used by the Guardian, was founded in April 2017 by startup capital from Bizinvest Limited and Grayson Law Trustees Limited — and later joined by Boteight Limited.

Chris Yu said of the Guardian technology, “The system is designed to meet the requirements of the Gambling Act. COMS Systems were already providing hardware solutions for the gaming industry, and we worked together to find an effective solution to identify excluded problem gamblers.”

Torutek’s three founders are David Andrew Leaver, James Lambert Mccosh, and Jianxin “Chris” Yu. Steven Crake and Caine Jameson, two of the company’s software designers, previously worked for Smartrak Limited, New Zealand’s leading GPS tracking and fleet management service.

The Problem Gambling Foundation Approves

So far, the facial recognition technology has attracted rave reviews, even from sources that normally do not praise the casino industry or its associates. Paula Snowden, the CEO of the Problem Gambling Foundation of New Zealand, said the Guardian system has her approval.

Casino security staff has many variables to track. Security surveillance personnel must track the game and spot cheaters. Dealers and pit bosses must do the same, while organizing the game and handling customer requests and complaints. In the past, casino operators have grown lax tracking problem gamblers, which leads to fines and bad press when a gambling addict makes it through the screen. The Guardian makes such mistakes far less common.

Snowden said the system would allow casinos to take action privately and discreetly. She added, “It means that we can have a system that doesn’t rely on photographs or pictures being placed on pin boards behind serving areas so people know who’s supposed to be in, or not in.”

6 More Casinos to Receive Guardian Tech

Currently, 15 New Zealand casinos have the Guardian system. Eventually, Torutek and COMS System plan to install the facial recognition system into 6 more casinos before the experiment is complete.

About the Author
April Bergman avatar
April Bergman

April Bergman was a longtime news blogger for BOC. She wrote gaming news posts from January 2013 until September 2018. April also wrote slot reviews, strategy articles, and online casino reviews for the site.

April Bergman began in the online gaming industry in August 2010. From 2010 to 2013, she managed evergreen content for several top online casino. Her duties included developing and maintaining multiple websites in the gaming space. When not writing about online gambling, April loves horse racing, travel, photography, and gardening. She's began in the business as a devoted poker players and spent several years as a card game editor on the now-defunct DMOZ. These days, she lives with her husband and two children in the Toronto metropolitan area.

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April Bergman was a longtime news blogger for BOC. She wrote gaming news posts from January 2013 until September 2018. April also wrote slot reviews, strategy articles, and online casino reviews for the site.

April Bergman began in the online gaming industry in August 2010. From 2010 to 2013, she managed evergreen content for several top online casino. Her duties included developing and maintaining multiple websites in the gaming space. When not writing about online gambling, April loves horse racing, travel, photography, and gardening. She's began in the business as a devoted poker players and spent several years as a card game editor on the now-defunct DMOZ. These days, she lives with her husband and two children in the Toronto metropolitan area.

READ MORE
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