SJM Holdings Macau Casinos Could Go to Facial Recognition Technology, Pending Regulatory Approval

Posted on: July 22, 2019, 02:49h. 

Last updated on: July 22, 2019, 03:37h.

SJM Holdings Ltd Macau gaming venues so far have not installed facial recognition systems. But company CEO Ambrose So Shu Fai has not ruled out their use in the future.

SJM Holdings Ltd CEO Ambrose So said the company’s Macau venues so far are not using facial recognition technology. (Image: Macau News)

“We don’t have those devices installed in our premises,” Ambrose So told reporters on Friday. “Of course, we would like to make use of every [piece of] high technology in order to improve the efficiency of the operation,” he was quoted by GGRAsia.

But possible use “has to be done under the regulations and laws in Macau,” he said. The region’s Gaming Inspection and Coordination Bureau recently cautioned that installing facial recognition technology in casinos required approval by regulators.

As of last week, “two to three [casinos] are testing…. They have to strictly obey the personal data protection law,” bureau Director Paulo Martins Chan was quoted by the Macau Daily Times. “If possible, at the preliminary stage, [the system] will be used in a small scale in few places.

“Then we will be able to see how the laws can oversee the use of the equipment,” Chan added. Last month, gaming inspection bureau officials said that facial recognition technology would be used just for security in Macau.

In June, it was revealed venues in Macau had artificial intelligence (AI) technology in place and data could be collected via facial recognition tech, closed-circuit TV systems, high-tech baccarat tables, and radio-frequency identification (RFID) enabled chips, according to Bloomberg News.

The AI technology found at properties such those operated by MGM Resorts’ Macau aids the casino in pinpointing its VIPs and making sure they are being catered to. It allows venues to also monitor habits of patrons and quickly identify those who are likely to spend, and lose, big.

In April, Melco Resorts and Entertainment announced in a report it was “preparing to install the latest generation” of facial recognition tech at venues. The tech was to be installed in Macau and Manila casinos, GGRAsia reported.

Macau Bureau Investigates Illegal Websites

In Friday’s press conference, Chan also announced that the bureau, between 2016 and 2018, investigated more than 500 illegal gambling websites. More than 300 of these websites had their operations suspended, Chan added.

In the United States, casinos could increasingly become part of a national debate on how to regulate and use biometric surveillance and related high-tech methods of data collection on gaming patrons.

On one hand, privacy advocates are concerned what gaming venues and other organizations are doing with facial recognition and biometric data collection and whether patrons’ rights are being violated. In defense of casinos and other private businesses, the data can help provide a personalized experience for visitors.

Gaming venues have used facial recognition tools since the 1990s to detect and identify banned or problem gamblers. Its use has evolved and continues to help improve security.

U.S. National Privacy Proposal

On a national level, U.S. Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto (D-Nevada) proposed a federal privacy bill earlier this year. It includes protections for biometric data, such as opt-in consent, Hanna said. Masto filed the bill in February, and it was assigned to the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation. However, it has not yet moved past the committee.

On state levels, Illinois, Texas, and Washington state already have biometric data laws in place governing individual states. Also, the California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA) takes effect in 2020.

Some gaming venues in California may be impacted by the CCPA, according to Hanna. The act will let residents access some information and include an anti-discrimination provision, Hanna explained, that could lead to a change in behavior by gaming venues.