Technology is constantly evolving to be able to follow the impact that everyday consumerism has on us. As a part of the market in which large amounts of money get passed around every single day, the gambling industry simply had to introduce additional security features to ensure ‘the house safety.’ One of those features is the facial recognition technology, and even though it is relatively new, this surveillance feature seems promising.
Land-based casinos have become experts in managing their customers; from attracting new clientele to protecting the existing ones. This task is not an easy one, but it took them years to get there. Earlier, the operators had to pay attention to every person that walked through their lobby. In fact, they had to be able to predict the intention of their customers. To be fair, most of the players came to enjoy their time and spend some money. But what about those players whose intentions were not that honest? Well, casinos started making blacklists which included players that are known for their previous bad behavior. Creating those blacklists was another cumbersome task they had to fulfill, and this is where modern casino technology swoops in and saves the day.
A Brief History of Facial Recognition
Until recently, the face recognition technology could be seen in science fiction movies where it was used for various ‘spy activities.’ But, nowadays, this groundbreaking piece of technology has not only become viable, but you can easily find it in a lot of places in everyday life.
In the 1960s, the father of the facial recognition technology Woodrow Wilson Bledsoe managed to develop a functional system that could classify the pictures of faces in what used to be known as RAND tablet. This system was manually regulated, and with the help of this device, people could build a database according to those results.
The metrics they used were limited by the technology of that age, but this paved the way for future installments. The next couple of years brought innovations, and the accuracy was increased with additional 21 facial markers, but those markers were somewhat subjective and still manually computed. This practice underwent a few modifications until the 1990s when the Defence Advanced Research Project Agency decided to develop a commercial face recognition market and started with intense database building.
It is evident that this system changes our concepts of safety completely, and the main goal is to improve law enforcement’s current practice. Since 2009, this system has helped in creating a forensic database that resulted in a better way of leading criminal investigations and more arrests.
However, the very first official installation of this program happened at an airport in Panama during 2011. Very soon the system helped in the arrest of many Interpol subjects and cut down illegal activities that took place at this airport.
Apparently, the implementation of this system could be the most effective way of early detection and catching any criminal suspects. This transformative tech can significantly improve our everyday life and become a widespread practice. Let’s see if that is already the case.
How Does This Piece of Casino Software Work?
You must’ve figured out a few steps of the facial recognition process during your hundredth watch of the Mission Impossible series, but do you know how these systems actually work? Well, to put it very simply, the facial recognition system simply scans the facial features of players who enter the casino and compares the features to the database of players that have already visited the casino.
That way, the casino can instantly recognize a high roller who enters the premises or a known cheater who is out for an easy payday. By gaining access to the data gathered through other players, the casino is always prepared to react accordingly and in real time. We should also mention that some of the better facial recognition solutions can easily get through costumes and masks that known cheaters could use. Basically, growing a beard and putting on sunglasses might fool the casino security guy, but it won’t fool the casino technology in place.
Two Types of Facial Recognition
To begin with, there are two systems in place — the dumb one and the smart one. Basically, the dumb one takes snaps of everyone entering the casino to create a simple database. The data intelligence analysts can use this system properly only if they have access to other records or to a ‘cheat database’ provided by other venues or companies. That way, the casino is ensuring that they are aware of all the players that can be found on premises in case of an emergency. This approach is already a regular practice among the surveillance crew, but it fails to go that ‘extra step,’ and it can be rather useless if you don’t have access to additional databases.
When it comes to the smart one, this type of surveillance is much more proactive — not only does it take snapshots of all customers, it has the ability to compare them to various databases.
The Advantages of the Smart Facial Recognition Casino Technology
The main flaw of the ‘dumber’ system is that staff can never be certain if they have allowed a banned player to enter or not. As long as they don’t make large and risky bets, they will not attract the supervisors’ attention which is their primary goal and the main reason why operators have the need to introduce this as a part of their security system. Besides preventing these things from happening, another essential benefit is preventing underage gamblers from entering the premises even with fake IDs.
Video surveillance is in charge of capturing images of players who enter the casino or sit at the table (depending on where the casino needs monitoring the most) and saves the image in the casino’s database. Afterward, the same image is broken into codes that the program uses to search through a particular database. Usually, companies that have access to biometric systems lease those databases to a casino for a monthly fee. Those fees are known to be exceedingly expensive, but they have proven to be worth it in the vast majority of cases. Sometimes, land-based casinos decide to collaborate and exchange their own ‘cheater databases’ to help each other.
The Pioneers of Facial Recognition in Casino Technologies
Starting in 2001, three land-based casinos were pioneers in their field — Trump Plaza, Trump Marina, and Trump Taj Mahal. Using this piece of technology as a part of their surveillance system, these venues improved their security network and prevented a lot of questionable activities that could have taken place in their casinos. Since then, many casinos have opted for this additional feature in their security and haven’t been proven wrong.
However, many casinos stay away from this technology and deny its apparent good use. That is mostly due to them not being properly informed or their fear of public outrage that could result in losing their customers. As far as gambling goes, casino operators have one of the most prominent open door policy out there, so introducing this kind of software wouldn’t be the smartest idea — business-wise.
It is entirely understandable that people have issues with the ‘Big Brother’ features, primarily since they consider casinos to be places of entertainment where you shouldn’t have such concerns.
Most players are well aware that cameras are and should be a part of the security system. However, when they find out that they are being more than just observed — it puts them on edge. That raises additional concerns regarding the database from which they elicit information, and people want to know how exactly the casinos get the information in question.
What they should know is that they are being monitored, and in case of any suspicion, their background is going to be checked. Even if they haven’t done anything wrong, the panic starts to take over.
It is completely understandable; however, players should keep in mind that this is good for the overall security of the premises. After all, the CCTV systems collect their information in a similar way; and those systems can be found in the streets, public places, clubs, hotels, etc. Frankly, you would be lucky to walk the street in front of the Las Vegas strip of casinos and avoid getting filmed.
The Cause of Complaints
Some industry experts claim that the discomfort is caused by two simple factors — the secrecy behind it and the lack of laws that could regulate this Big Brother conundrum.
First of all, the gambling establishment that practices this kind of surveillance should notify the players about it. It should be the player’s decision to continue to enjoy the venue in spite of the facial recognition software added to the security system.
That way, the casino premises will be full of players who clearly gave their consent for the casino to extract their personal information if there is a need to do such a thing. However, if the players are blissfully unaware of such software, the operators could face some unwanted charges. The worst thing is that they would most probably lose those disputes.
The growth of this technology is so rapid that it fails to fall under all regulations that are in power right now. The privacy advocates do have a point when they claim that there are only two states in the whole country whose laws allow such collection and use of someone’s biometric data — Illinois and Texas. These laws happen to have been written far before this technology started to outpace all regulations that currently take place. This is a legitimate reason for public concerns, as it should be for the operators that have already introduced this method of surveillance without thinking ahead.
What’s in Store for the Future?
This software is used all over the world for spotting fraudsters and potential criminal activities, which was its sole purpose. The gambling establishments are following that trend and introducing the facial recognition system more and more in order to protect their assets, staff, and even the security of the players themselves.
This software has distinct benefits, and it protects gambling venues from any potential financial schemes that could have far-reaching consequences; they finally have the opportunity to be one step ahead.
Nevertheless, the public interest in these matters cannot be sidelined by other vital interests such as dealing with crime. There should be some laws in place that are there to protect players’ privacy and their rights. So far, the face recognition system is not as safe as it seems.