Thursday, August 18, 2022

Facial recognition technology casts eye beyond security

Advances in facial recognition technology will see new and widespread applications that revolutionize the way casino operators interact with their players.

 Facial recognition is not new to the casino sector, but it has traditionally been restricted to security teams, primarily as an aid to keeping barred individuals off a property.

 But the technology has developed to a point where many now see it as central to growth plans over the coming years - with the potential to overhaul CRM, VIP and marketing departments.

 At December’s G2E conference in Manila, Scientific Games’ sales director for Asia Clinton Long described the technology as a “game-changer for the industry,'' adding that operators so far are only “scratching at the surface”.

 He said that the technology could be used to significantly enhance the gaming experience on the casino floor, including everything from identifying players as they move throughout a property to ascertaining their likes and dislikes via emotion recognition.

Roger Lwin, vice president of gaming operations for City of Dreams Manila was equally optimistic.

 “Facial recognition technology has tremendous opportunities for us. Before the VIP customer comes in, the host could already have their favorite drink on hand. For operators, anything that improves our profitability, efficiency and customer experience - we’re in for that,” he said.

Such applications are already in use. AGB understands that several casino operators in Asia are operating facial recognition technology that alerts managers when VIPs enter a property.

And it was reported last year that Wynn Macau, Galaxy Entertainment Group and Melco Resorts & Entertainment were all in discussions with suppliers to roll out the technology.

“[Most people’s first thought with facial recognition is]: ‘Great, I would like security to get a text message  when a bad guy shows up. I would also like my hosts to know when a VIP player enters the property,’” Dave McCormick, director of marketing at eConnect, told AGB.

Las Vegas-headquartered eConnect operates offices in Asia, with a focus on delivering facial recognition technology that can serve up actionable insights. The company works with major operators in Macau, Singapore, Cambodia and the Philippines.

“To fully appreciate the power of facial recognition, you must first understand how accurate it has become. Prior to neural networks, and as far back as 2002, systems attempted to measure the distance between the eyes and ears,” said McCormick. 

“This may have worked with a database of around 1,000 people, but failed miserably when scaled or when the subject was not looking directly at the camera. With the use of neural networks, systems are trained with billions of faces. The accuracy is approaching that of a fingerprint. Glasses, hats and various poses do not prevent successful recognition,” he added.

These enhanced capabilities open up entirely new fields of application for the technology, particularly across VIP, CRM and broader marketing, and even in the tracking of wagers on the table.

“When recognition occurs, the unique attributes of the faces are rendered to a small piece of vector data. This is important to know, because this data can be stored for years and years. Whether carded or not, it is quite easy to begin creating a profile for each person. 

“How often are they visiting? What is their duration of visit? Are their visits trending upwards or down? How many people are currently in the casino? What percentage of the guests are first time visitors?” said McCormick.

The tracking and storage of such data does, however, raise regulatory and consumer concerns, particularly if transmitted internationally.

McCormick concedes that facial recognition, as with much new technology, is pushing at the limits of personal privacy. But he said that the technology has already progressed to a stage to which it would be tough to put the genie back in the bottle.

Macau will likely be at the forefront; the Chinese government is already operating a large scale facial recognition program, while the country’s banking sector is also embracing the technology. However, the government so far has said such systems can only be used for security.

Still, there are also applications for facial recognition that could keep regulators onside.

“One of our initial regulatory uses for facial recognition, was to group and total anonymous kiosk transactions to the face,” said McCormick. “If a person were to visit multiple kiosks and cash out more than $10,000 within 24 hours, we alert surveillance allowing them to create the proper AML / FinCen reports.”

 Assuming a balance can be struck to allay the concerns of both regulators and customers, it is likely that facial recognition will become a key tool for operations teams across a casino.

 “I think we’ll start to see more and more departments, specifically marketing, take advantage of the technology,” said McCormick. “I imagine kiosks will create custom offers and prizes for the individual. Casino operators will have a better understanding of their uncarded players, and perhaps the players card will be a thing of the past.”

Asia Gaming Brief is a news and intelligence service providing up to date market information for worldwide executives on relevant gaming issues in Asia.

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