Macau’s casino regulator – the Gaming Inspection and Coordination Bureau – confirmed in a Friday statement emailed to GGRAsia that “some” of the city’s casino concessionaires were using facial recognition technology inside their gaming venues.
The gaming bureau – also known by its Portuguese acronym DICJ – said that “according to information collected” by the regulator, facial recognition technology was only currently undergoing “preliminary testing” by some casino operators.
Such testing “needs to follow related privacy protection laws strictly, and can only be used for the protection and safety of persons and property,” added the regulator’s statement.
Paulo Martins Chan, director of the gaming bureau, had told GGRAsia on Thursday on the sidelines of a Macau conference about anti-money laundering, that the bureau would be issuing a statement about what he termed in brief comments to us as a story about use of “new technology” in Macau casinos.
That was understood to be a reference to a Bloomberg article published on Wednesday that claimed digital technology was being used in some Macau casinos to track the players most drawn to risk when gambling.
The article had also raised the issue of whether – were such information being gathered on player habits and then placed in a so-called “data cloud” – it might be breaching Macau’s data protection law, which requires prior authorisation for personal data to be transported outside Macau’s borders.
The Bloomberg article had suggested that facial recognition technology – typically presented by its advocates as a way of safeguarding the public by identifying excluded or at-risk players, and of protecting the operators from known cheats or other undesirables – might be used in some cases to track particular high-value players moving around a casino floor.
A senior official of the Macau’s Unitary Police Service had said in May that Macau’s casino operators could be required to have their in-house surveillance technology upgraded to include facial recognition. Such provision could be included in the city’s existing gaming law ahead of a fresh public tender process for local gaming rights, said at the time Mui San Meng, assistant to the Commissioner-General of the Unitary Police Service, speaking at the city’s Legislative Assembly.
Asian casino promoter Melco Resorts and Entertainment Ltd had said in April – in its Sustainability and Corporate Social Responsibility Report 2018 – it was “preparing to install the latest generation” of facial recognition technology in its venues in Macau and Manila this year. “In 2016, Melco became the first operator in Asia to deploy real-time facial recognition security systems at every entrance to our gaming areas in Macau, assisting self exclusion,” noted the report.
The Macau gaming bureau said in its Friday statement it had been “strictly assessing and authorising requests for installation of gaming-related equipment in casinos in accordance with laws and the concession contract of the gaming licence” relevant to the appropriate operator.
Macau’s gaming law states all casino operators must install “electronic surveillance and monitoring devices” inside their gaming venues “for the protection and safety of persons and property”.
The statement added that when the gaming bureau was considering an application to install new technology in the city’s gaming venues, it would “take into account especially whether the equipment is secure and matches the local gaming-related laws as well as privacy protection laws in Macau.”.
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"One thing that is certain under the coronavirus era is that the biggest beneficiaries are the illegal operators, both bricks and mortar and online"
Partner and director overseeing government affairs at casino industry consultancy Global Market Advisors