Monday July 18, 2011 : FACING UP TO PROBLEM GAMBLING
The OLG in Canada has a new weappon to fight problem gambling
The Ontario Lottery and Gaming Corp. has embarked on an interesting new technological initiative to identify and block problem or self-excluded gamblers from its activities.
Land casinos in the province are now photographing casino visitors through a new facial recognition system that focuses on known problem punters.
The OLG began rolling out the new facial recognition system in May in an initiative designed to keep tabs on the province's estimated 300,000 "problem gamblers."
Cameras are mounted at casino entrances to digitally scan the faces of all visitors. Problem gamblers who voluntarily signed up for the self-exclusion list can be stopped by security staff from playing at the casino. But regular casino visitors will also be digitally scanned, although their facial photos are almost immediately discarded if their name is not on the list.
The system, which is in place at 19 of the province's 27 casinos, is an improvement over the old method of having security staff at casinos keep an eye out for problem gamblers, said Paul Pellizzari, director of policy and social responsibility for OLG.
"It worked to some degree in the past, but, like anything, you want it to evolve and when you have technology that can help you it's the better way to do things," he said.
"We developed some custom algorithms that would biometrically encrypt the facial data that we had in the system. We took what the industry standard was for encryption and we enhanced it and did a number of other things to make hard to hack into. But if it was hacked into unauthorised people would not be able to access the data," Pellizzari said, adding that the system was a component of the corporation's strong responsible gaming program.
The hardware and software applications were developed by iView Systems, based in Oakville, Ontario which specialises in security and surveillance systems.
The software focuses on detailed facial features to be certain that no permanent link is made between a biometric template of a person's face and their private information, and has the approval of the province's privacy commissioner, Ann Cavoukian.
The corporation is paying between $3 million to $5 million to implement the system at all the casinos, and it is expected to be fully operational throughout OLG venues by the end of the year.
Pellizzari revealed that some 15,000 problem gamblers are on the exclusion list throughout the province, although the number fluctuates. If the gamblers in the system's database commit a breach OLG has the authority to prevent them from entering a casino. OLG can also add more time to their banned period which can range from six months to an indefinite period of time, he added.