TAB is betting on facial recognition technology to kick underage gamblers to the curb

AI technology performing facial recognition. (Photo by Smith Collection, Gado, Getty Images)

Wagering giant Tabcorp is preparing to install artificial intelligence-powered video surveillance in its 400 TAB agencies in what it says is a world-first bid to prevent underage gambling.

The $9.5 billion group recently completed an eight-week trial in three Melbourne TAB agencies to test software that identifies when someone potentially under the age of 18 enters a betting shop.

Tabcorp’s executive general manager of wagering Andy Wright said the company was satisfied with the trial and would start rolling out the new technology in agencies across Australia from the middle of 2020.

“In retail, you have the anonymity of cash and there’s a heightened level of risk around that,” Mr Wright said.

“Ensuring full compliance with laws and our license obligations is vital to our business and this is one measure that will support that.”

Unlike in the booming online betting market, gamblers in retail betting shops do not need to create an account, verify their identity or pay with a credit card when they bet in stores.

They can also place bets on self-service terminals in retail venues, meaning they do not necessarily interact with a TAB employee who can check their age.

During the trial, video cameras were trained on the entrance of the venue to scan the face of each customer as they entered. That was fed into a computer program which analyses their facial features to estimate how old they are.

If deemed someone was 25 years old, or younger, it sent an alert and image of that customer to an employee, who could approach them to verify their age.

Tabcorp placed a sign at the entrance of its trial agencies using the software, notifying them that the technology was being used.

“We were a little bit concerned that it might be to the detriment of turnover, but this didn’t happen,” Mr Wright said.

“Cameras are common in retail environments, banks, service stations, ATMs, pubs and clubs and it’s broadly accepted by customers. We’ve just got to make sure that whatever we do doesn’t compromise our privacy obligations.”

The facial recognition software will not be used at TAB retail terminals inside pubs and clubs.

The group is now trying to slim down the technology, so that employees can receive alerts on an iPad or portable electronic device.

Tabcorp worked with Eliiza, an Australian machine learning and artificial intelligence agency, and three vendors of facial recognition software during the trial.

The maximum fine for letting a minor bet in NSW is $5500 and in Victoria is $19,800.

Mr Wright would not say how much it will cost to roll out the technology, other than it was a “substantial investment”.

This story was originally published in the Sydney Morning Herald. Read the original story here.

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