Macau legislator Leong Sun Iok has urged the government to enhance security at local casino floors and hotels via installation of face recognition technology.
In a written request to the government dated September 7, Mr Leong said that in relation to the number of reported crimes in Macau for the first six months this year, robbery in casinos was up by 50 percent year-on-year. He cited information released by the Office of the Secretary for Security in late August.
Those data showed the number of such reported crimes started from a very low base: from four cases in first-half 2017 to six in first-half 2018. An act of robbery is typically defined by law enforcement agencies as theft with violence or the threat of violence. In the first half this year, there were 13 reported robberies on Macau hotel premises, compared to six in the prior-year period.
But another set of numbers issued by the Macau government: that for gaming-related crimes, actually showed a 3-percent year-on-year decline in the first half, to 840 cases. The government did not clarify whether robberies in casinos were counted in that aggregate.
In early September – outside the statistical reporting period – at a Cotai resort, two mainland Chinese on a business trip were allegedly followed to their hotel rooms and robbed, noted Mr Leong, adding that the reported incident, and the luxurious surroundings in which it purportedly occurred, had had a “severe impact on Macau’s tourism image“.
Mr Leong claimed gaming-related crimes often involved what he termed “outsiders” rather than local people. On that basis, the government should create some enforceable system to restrict any blacklisted tourists either from visiting Macau or from going to its casinos.
Face recognition equipment could also be used for practical enforcement of a bill that aims to ban Macau-based gaming workers from entering casino floors outside work hours.
The Macau government already had a ban on the city’s civil servants entering casinos: the same rule should apply to gaming workers outside their working shifts, said Mr Leong. But he said there was currently no clarity on how such a ban could be enforced, other than relying on the vigilance of casino managements.
Macau casino operator Melco Crown Entertainment Ltd announced the installation of face recognition technology at its casinos in early 2015, saying at the time its software had been developed by Germany’s Cognitec Systems GmbH.
In December last year, Melco Resorts stated a willingness to use face recognition technology as a social safeguard as part of its effort to get a Japan casino licence. The company said it took the issue of problem gambling into consideration, as this has been a key concern for Japanese experts and government decision makers.
Macau civil servants are currently only allowed to visit casinos for a few days during Chinese New Year.
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"Our main focus is just making sure – and particularly within Australia – to the maximum extent possible, that we can have uniformity [among different jurisdictions]"
Chief executive of the Australia-based Gaming Technologies Association