Pokie scan will switch off problem players
New facial recognition technology aimed at stopping problem gamblers from using pokies is six months away from being trialled at a Hamilton pub.
The software developed by Hamilton-based company Positive Outlook Limited uses state-of-the-art camera technology installed in individual gaming machines to scan gamblers' faces.
If 95 per cent matched with personal images stored on an opt-in problem-gambler database, the machine will automatically switch off.
The technology has been installed in a Hamilton pub owned by the New Zealand Community Trust (NZCT), but is awaiting the green light from the Department of Internal Affairs (DIA).
Positive Outlook Limited director Paul Andrew described the system as "the way of the future" and a thorough update of the current system.
"We are not reinventing the wheel, all we're doing is computerising the current system."
Mr Andrew said there was already an exclusion system operating, but gamblers had to ask bar-managers to exclude them.
The Positive Outlook technology still allows gamblers to enrol at a bar, although Mr Andrew encouraged people to enrol through a treatment provider.
"It will be done electronically and that way you can be entered into a system in one place and you can actually decide whether you want to be excluded from one pub, 10 pubs, a town, city, or the whole North Island."
However, the DIA - which regulates the industry - has been slow to warm to the system and warned of possible privacy implications.
In a statement released this week, Maarten Quivooy, general manager of regulatory services at the DIA, urged caution.
"We welcome any new technology which has the potential to reduce the harm of problem gambling.
"However, there are significant issues that need to be worked through regarding the security of the Positive Outlook system, including concerns about who manages and has access to the database."
Mr Quivooy also raised questions about the speed and accuracy of the system.
But in a letter to the DIA, seen by the Waikato Times, Mr Andrew said he was surprised at the comments, and downplayed concerns.
"There are no privacy issues with Positive Outlook's system. The system is an opt-in system. The only data held by the system are the images held of persons who have elected to formally enrol in the system.
"The facial recognition cameras scan players' faces, but delete this data within five seconds if a match is not made.
"The standard CCTV cameras in a gaming room are far more intrusive and record and retain considerably more information than any part of the Positive Outlook system."
The database will be administered by an independent third party with experience in dealing with problem gambling, Mr Andrew said.
NZCT chief executive Mike Knell said the technology had the potential to significantly reduce the harm problem gamblers cause to themselves and their families.
"If this technology is as good as we hope, it will give everyone involved in this sector - the players, problem gambling service providers, the regulator, the publicans and gaming trusts - more assurance and confidence that gambling harm is being minimised."