As revenues continue to fall and gamblers accumulate debts, a Macau gaming operator has decided to step up security measures in an attempt to stop banned people from entering in its
Melco Crown, headed by chief executive and co-chairman Lawrence Ho Yau-lung, is the first casino operator in Asia’s gaming hub installing a specialised face recognition technology developed by German biometric firm Cognitec.
The system, called FaceVACS-VideoScan, detects people’s faces in live video streams and compare their facial features with photos of banned persons stored in databases.
But this technology goes beyond that: if there’s a match between the information collected and the photos in the system, it sends real-time alerts to security staff. The aim is to prevent losses and criminal activities.
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According to Cognitec, the software also allows to compute demographical information, client behaviour, people movement in time and space, and frequent visitors.
Stephen Meltz, managing director Asia-Pacific at Cognitec, noted in a statement issued last week that it was the first system of its kind in the casino market.
Melco Crown’s portfolio in Macau includes City of Dreams, and the Macau Studio City
Leroy Daniel, executive director of surveillance operations at Melco Crown Entertainment, said: “We are confident that our joint commitment to this significant project will result in safer casino environments for casino staff and patrons.”
The number of gaming-related crimes soared by 38 per cent in 2015. A total of 1,553 gaming-related crimes were recorded last year in Macau, comparing to 1,125 cases in 2014.
According to Macau police, most of these crimes - which included 366 cases of illegal imprisonment and 318 of loan-sharking - took place inside casinos.
Police explained the rising numbers with the adjustment of gaming industry.
Amid the impact of China’s anti-corruption crackdown, which scared high-rollers away, consecutive decline in casino revenues, looming greater regulation, and a push towards a mass-market model, the junket industry - which used to account for 80 per cent of revenue - is struggling to survive.
Losses in millions and several majors thefts at VIP rooms have been reported over the past months
A casino insider said that there were “hundreds of people banned from entering from casinos in Macau, and dozens of new notifications are issued by the Gaming Inspection and Coordination Bureau every week.”
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He told the Post that most of them are people who owe money to casinos or provoked brawls. Some are also the so-called “auto excluded”, gaming addicts who requested to have their names on the list.
The same source said that is currently very hard to maintain banned people away from casinos, as it is not necessary to show the identity card before entering casino premises.
Sonny Lo Shiu-hing, head of the department of social sciences at the Hong Kong Institute of Education, predicted that further security measures will be put in place in the world’s biggest gaming hub. “The deployment of sophisticated equipment aims at tightening security, which is in line with the overall intention of gaming operators and the Macau government,” he said. “With the heavy influx of mainland China tourists and the growth of the mass market, more security is expected,” Lo noted.
The scholar said that “Beijing will welcome the tightening of security measures in Macau casinos” .
Elke Oberg, Cognitec’s marketing manager, said that other casinos in the world have adopted this type of technology, but declined to give locations.
Asked wether any privacy concerns have been raised so far, she said: “not for this installation in particular.”
Widespread privacy concerns regarding face recognition systems have emerged over the past months, particularly in the US. Civil rights groups have argued that people have the right to privacy and to be anonymous if they want to.