The AHA NSW and ClubsNSW have announced a joint initiative to introduce facial recognition technology in all hotel and club gaming rooms, to further combat the onus of problem gambling.

Facial recognition is set to become a major part of the expanded Multi-Venue Self-Exclusion (MVSE) scheme, which prevents self-excluded problem gamblers from entering gaming areas.

When a person enters a gaming room their face will be scanned and compared with all faces in the self-exclusion system, and an alert will be sent to the venue immediately if there is a match, allowing staff to intervene.

There have already been trials at six hotels, and now dozens of clubs are already operating the system effectively.

The Associations report they are advanced in the development of a state-of-the-art system whereby self-excluded people will be detected and prevented from gambling in any pub or club throughout NSW.

Now established, it will be rolled out during 2023, beginning with the largest venues constituting the greatest risk, before it is deployed across the state.

The central database will be encrypted, and housed within the MVSE system, along with all the current appropriate self-exclusion information. MVSE will only operate in the gaming room, and venues will display clear signage to alert patrons that facial recognition technology is in use. 

Importantly, data can only be accessed via a secure link, and only the necessary information is presented to a venue that has a self-excluding patron enter. Assistance may be provided by counselling services, which will also be alerted.

The AHA stresses that the secure information will be used only for the MVSE, and no third party will have access to the information – including the police and Liquor & Gaming.

This roll-out follows a recent survey reporting 85 per cent of self-excluded problem gamblers support facial recognition to identify self-excluded people, and data suggesting one per cent of adults in NSW identifies as a problem gambler.

ClubsNSW CEO Josh Landis says the technology has proven to be effective in helping proactive self-excluded patrons “maintain their resolve” with some extra support.

“Close to 100 clubs are already using this technology and the feedback is that it works.”

The recent trials in NSW hotels takes a lead from the success of a similar scheme in place in 300 venues in South Australia, but once implemented, a key feature of the new system will be that it is state-wide for the first time.

“Technology now allows us to accurately identify self-excluded problem gamblers and then stop them from gambling — this is a powerful tool and NSW hotels and clubs are committed to implementing it,” says AHA NSW CEO John Whelan.

Coinciding with the landmark initiative, after five years on the job, AHA National President Scott Leach has stood down from the position, to be replaced by AHA Victoria President David Canny, who was elected unopposed.

AHA South Australia’s David Basheer is the new Senior Vice-President, the Tasmanian Hospitality Association’s Ben Carpenter is the new National Secretary/Treasurer, while the Northern Territory’s Paul Palmer remains Vice-President.

Leach has been the AHA NSW President since 2008, and will continue in that role. He was elected to the national position late 2016, and has been at the forefront throughout the most turbulent period in the history of Australian pubs.

“Hotels were at the economic front-line of the pandemic – were among the first businesses to close and last to fully re-open.

“I am particularly proud of the resilience and community spirit shown by hoteliers’ right around Australia during my time in office.”

David Canny

Second-generation hotelier David Canny has been licensee at Ballarat’s Red Lion Hotel since 1995. He joined the AHA (Vic) Council in 1998, was elected to the AHA (Vic) Executive Committee in 2008, and is in his fourth year as Victorian AHA President.

“It’s an honour to be elected as National President and I look forward to working closely with all state and territory branches as the industry continues to recover from the pandemic and we work to solve issues such as the chronic worker shortage.”

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