Ottawa·New

Facial recognition set up at Rideau Carleton slots

Rideau Carleton Raceway's slot machines are now equipped with facial recognition technology, as part of a bid to help addicts bar themselves from gaming facilities.

Technology to deter gambling addicts from returning to casino

A newly installed facial-recognition system at the Rideau Carleton Raceway will be used to deter gambling addicts who sign up on a 'self-exclusion' list. (iStock)

Rideau Carleton Raceway's slot machines are now equipped with facial recognition technology, as part of a bid to help addicts bar themselves from gaming facilities.

The Ontario Lottery and Gaming Corporation installed the technology at the complex two weeks ago, as they have also done at about two-thirds of the slots and casinos across the province.

The technology relies on a method of "self-exclusion," whereby compulsive gamblers volunteer in advance to have their photos banked in the system's database, in case they ever get the urge to try their luck at a casino again.

If that person returns in the future and the facial-recognition software detects them, security will be dispatched to ask the gambler to leave.

15,000 gamblers signed up

Already, about 15,000 gamblers across Ontario have signed up to restrict themselves from playing at slots or casinos, according to the OLG. Roughly 100 had signed up at Rideau Carleton Raceway to restrict their gambling before the introduction of the new software.

While video cameras at the entrance will scan all customers, OLG said there is no danger of misuse of that information.

Tony Bitonti, a spokesperson for the OLG, said the majority of those playing slots need not worry about having their photos stored anywhere.

"If you're not on the self-excluded database, your picture is automatically discarded," Bitonti said. "OLG is not keeping pictures for any other type of database or anything like that. Facial recognition is there to act as a deterrent to those who are on our self-included list."

Privacy concerns

Dallas Smith, who counsels compulsive gamblers with the Centretown Community Health Centre, said the deterrent technology has some advantages as well as drawbacks.

Privacy is one issue.

"Who will be able to see that list?" Smith asked. "And if someone they know works at OLG, will [the staff member] be able to go on the list and know [the client] has a problem with gambling?"

Even so, Smith agreed the facial-recognition system was a "more fool-proof" gambling deterrent for those who are serious about keeping themselves in check.

Bitonti said the software should catch more people who shouldn't be in casinos, and added that the OLG worked with Ontario's privacy commissioner to address privacy concerns before rolling out the new system.

With files from the CBC's Laurie Fagan