Why Casinos Are Upping the Ante with Facial Recognition Software


From the smart filters Social Gone Viral employs for targeted social media engagement to the heart rate monitors athletes use to meet their fitness goals, data analysis is everywhere, and the applications for biometric data are endless. One of the most promising forms of biometric data is facial recognition, a technology that scans a person’s face, translates it into a numeric code, and then compares that code to other faces in the system.

Law enforcement uses facial recognition to identify criminals, but now the technology is finding its way into the private sector. Businesses vulnerable to criminal activity are investing in cameras and software not only to identify the perpetrator if a crime occurs but also screen their customers and prevent offenders from entering the establishment in the first place. Casinos are at the forefront of biometrics. While several casinos in Atlantic City adopted facial recognition as early as 2001, many more are currently incorporating new and improved technology into their surveillance.

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One of the innovators in casino facial recognition is Anyvision, a company that offers a plug-and-play platform compatible with any existing cameras, hardware, or mobile devices. While earlier facial recognition software could only match faces if the angle and lighting of the video closely matched the original mugshot, Anyvision’s pixelated smart camera view accounts for differences in two- and three-dimensional images and identifies faces and objects outside of controlled environments.

According to the Las Vegas Review Journal, casinos are testing facial recognition as a form of identity authentication after a man recently robbed several venues by posing as a delivery driver. Unlike ID badges or key cards, which can easily be misplaced or stolen, our faces remain attached at all times. Biometric scanners prevent unauthorized personnel from accessing back-of-house areas and ensure only registered guests access hotel rooms.

Theft is not the only crime casinos need to prevent. In the early days of the Las Vegas Strip, casinos often served as fronts for organized crime. In an effort to legitimize the industry, the Nevada Gaming Control Board created a ledger of known mobsters and felons who were banned for life. The ledger was known as the Black Book, which gave us the term “blacklisting.”

Originally a physical book, the Black Book is now an online database of names and mugshots. Casinos are legally required to refuse service to any blacklisted person and risk fines if they aren’t compliant. Facial recognition is the most efficient method of preventing anyone from slipping through the cracks.

In addition to the official Black Book, casinos maintain or subscribe to private databases of known cheaters. When casino security throws out a player for card counting or hiding an ace up his sleeve, the offender might try to sneak back in at a later date when different security guards are on duty. Facial recognition software creates a permanent record of a cheater’s identity and automatically alerts security if he or she tries to enter, reducing the surveillance burden and risk of human error.

Casinos also monitor advantage gamblers, such as poker champions or members of high-ranked college blackjack teams. Although these players have committed no crime, they pose an economic risk to the house. As a private business, a casino has the right to refuse service to anyone, but the banned individual can sue for discrimination. If casinos use biometric scanners to identify advantage gamblers, they can maintain a consistent policy regarding their access and avoid treating any one gambler unfairly.

While facial recognition is good for business, it also provides tools for social responsibility, a major concern for industries built on gambling. The Responsible Gaming Association of New Mexico helps those struggling with a gambling addiction to seek counseling and voluntarily exclude themselves from casinos and other gambling establishments. The RGANM’s website states, “While the member casinos… all value your business, we never want your entertainment experience to interfere with the livelihood, happiness or health of you or your family.”

Biometric Update reports New Zealand casinos are adopting facial recognition technology to flag and deny entry to self-identified problem gamblers. With advances in artificial intelligence, however, casinos might one day be able to identify problem gamblers on their own. The latest innovations go beyond identifying a particular face by analyzing what that face reveals about an individual’s mental state or personality traits.

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An AI company called Human is developing technology that incorporates emotional intelligence into facial recognition software to monitor for signs of depression or anxiety. The system could flag gamblers who are betting irresponsibly before their addiction escalates.

Facial expression analysis is also helpful for competitive cardplayers, who could use the technology to learn to see past other players’ poker faces and avoid any nonverbal tells.

Have you encountered any biometric scanners on a recent trip to Las Vegas or Atlantic City? Tell us in the comments what you think of this burgeoning technology.