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Macau Casinos Implement AI Technology to Identify Biggest Losers, Pinpoint VIP Gamblers

Macau casinos have been rolling out artificial intelligence (AI) technologies in order to monitor habits of patrons and quickly identify those individuals who are likely to spend, and lose, big.

The eyes in the skies of Macau casinos are upgrading their capabilities with artificial intelligence. (Image: Reuters)

Make no mistake, the AI implementations aren’t tailored to protect gamblers. Instead, the technology is to aid the casino in pinpointing its VIPs and making sure they’re being catered to.

Bloomberg journalist Jinshan Hong says Las Vegas Sands and MGM Resorts’ Macau casinos have already installed such monitoring equipment. Hong reports that hidden cameras use facial recognition technologies to identify guests, and digitally-enabled poker chips and baccarat tables allow the house to keep close tabs on guests.

Hong says almost immediately after a VIP known to have deep pockets steps foot on the casino floor, the house is aware and can deploy a customer rep to make sure he or she is given special treatment.

“Those who can afford to lose, those who play even more when losing money, we can for sure offer them a free meal,” said Andrew Lo, the executive director of Suncity’s junket operations.

Along with allowing casinos to detect and track guests, the AI technology provides better ability to detect potential collusions among players and dealers.

Critical Backlash

The majority of guests who enter a casino likely know they’re being monitored. But accumulating vast amounts of data on their specific spending habits poses privacy concerns.

This new technology certainly has the potential to infringe the law as it expands the scope of players whose breadth and range of activities would now be tracked,” Ben Lee, a partner at Asian gaming consultancy IGamiX told Bloomberg.

Opponents to casinos even more closely monitoring gamblers say AI will naturally evolve to be used to keep guests on the gaming floor longer than they might have planned.

“For youth or players with serious gambling problems, the negative impacts of AI-based marketing and gambling operations can be devastating and even life-threatening,” National Council on Problem Gambling Executive Director Keith Whyte said in a statement to Axios.

AI Investment

Blackstone billionaire Stephen Schwarzman – whose private equity firm owns the Cosmopolitan in Las Vegas – recently donated $188 million to Oxford University in the UK to study artificial intelligence ethics. It follows a $350 million gift to MIT to address the opportunities and challenges presented by the rise of AI.

“I am someone who has spent years looking at companies and industries to see which are poised for growth and which are on the decline. And one thing I see every day is that most companies and industries are about to be transformed, if they haven’t been already, by artificial intelligence,” Schwarzman wrote in a January op-ed in The Washington Post.

He continued, “AI will reshape the world in ways we can’t imagine. The sooner we come to an understanding of AI that ensures its powerful capabilities are a net positive for people and workers, the more wisely we can develop and deploy it.”

Schwarzman is worth an estimated $15.7 billion according to Forbes.