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Should facial recognition for gambling self exclusion go ahead in the ACT?

Should facial recognition for gambling self exclusion go ahead in the ACT?

There is a strong link between gambling and mental health conditions. Gambling can cause low-self esteem, stress, anxiety and depression if it becomes a problem. We also know that gambling was on the rise over the course of the 2020/21 pandemic lockdowns, as people tried to alleviate boredom and fill the hours spent at home.

According to a government survey:

That last statistic is of particular concern. For every person who has an issue with gambling, there is a wider circle of loved ones who are also significantly impacted. They, too, can experience mental health and wellbeing challenges. 

In the Australian Capital Territory alone, around 44,000 people are impacted by gambling – as much as one-tenth of our population. That’s why gambling is a public health issue as well as an individual problem. It’s so critical that governments, business and community bodies take strong measures to support individuals who are impacted by gambling harm.

In the Australian Capital Territory, ClubsACT – the principal representative for the ACT clubs movement – is calling for a trial of facial recognition technology which would pick up self-excluded problem gamblers if they enter a poker machine or gaming area of a club.

The system would replace the current manual process, which relies on venue staff identifying self-excluded problem gamblers and asking them to leave the premises. Critically, it would also allow participants to enter the club for dinner, drinks or other social occasions – as long as they steer clear of the gaming areas. 

The ACT Government is considering the proposal and first wants some answers around data and privacy. Once those questions have been resolved, we would welcome a trial of the system as part of the overall ‘toolkit’ we can draw on to support anyone who is impacted by gambling harm.

ACT Gambling Support Service’s Markus Fischer was recently interviewed by Anna Vidot on ABC Canberra about this important topic. In particular, Anna wanted to discuss whether participants should be concerned about privacy issues. Said Markus:

“It’s not a surveillance system. Anything that can assist venue staff to support people who are impacted by gambling harm is a good thing. 

“This kind of technology would never replace people entirely – the human element is always important. That’s what AGSS does – we’re a human wraparound service because there are so many other things going on. We work with clubs to offer holistic support services.”

You can listen to the full interview with Markus here.

Need more help or information?

If there is anything in this article that has struck a chord with you – or you recognise the warning signs in a friend or family member – you can speak to a support person and access various support services by calling 1800 858 858. This free, confidential and non-judgemental service is available 24/7.