Struggling pubs and clubs fear that new laws forcing them to install expensive facial recognition technology will send them broke.
Struggling pubs and clubs fear that new laws forcing them to install expensive facial recognition technology will send them broke.

Clubs say facial recognition technology will send them broke

Struggling pubs and clubs in NSW will be sent broke by new laws pushing for them to install expensive facial recognition technology to identify problem gamblers, the industry says.

Customer Services Minister Victor Dominello has proposed that $45,000 facial recognition cameras be installed in many of NSW's 4500 pubs and clubs as part of his problem gambling legislation.

"We're in the middle of a global pandemic. Now is certainly not the time to impose significant new costs on struggling businesses," Australian Hotels Association director John Green said.

"COVID restrictions have meant pubs are now facing their most significant challenges in 100 years - many are struggling to survive and thousands of jobs have been lost."

ClubsNSW chief executive Josh Landis said the $113 million it would cost to install the cameras in the state's 2500 clubs in the first year alone would be better spent helping COVID-19 hit clubs re-employ more staff.

Clubs have had to stand down 16,000 staff since the pandemic began. The cost of the cameras would be enough to re-employ 2600 of them.

And clubs that have tried the facial recognition cameras say they do not work well anyway.

"We trialled facial recognition technology for about 12 months and the biggest problem was that it wasn't identifying people correctly," ex-Coffs chief executive John Rafferty said. "It just isn't there yet."

A facial recognition camera. Picture: Shutterstock
A facial recognition camera. Picture: Shutterstock

Wenty Leagues chief executive Glenn Kovacs said: "We tried facial recognition technology for around three months … and we had many false positive and false negative results.

"The technology is only as good as the image you are using to identify an excluded person. For us, the human eye is still better than the cameras at this stage."

The draft legislation outlined how the technology could be used to identify problem gamblers. Mr Dominello told the ABC he was open to introducing it.

"You can use technology to improve lives and reduce suffering. So provided there is privacy and security settings, absolutely," he said.

Customer Services Minister Victor Dominello. Picture: NCA NewsWire/Flavio Brancaleone
Customer Services Minister Victor Dominello. Picture: NCA NewsWire/Flavio Brancaleone

A spokesman for Mr Dominello attempted to back-pedal on Thursday and said the draft legislation did not mandate the use of facial recognition to ­exclude a problem gambler.

"The government is proposing that pubs and clubs take 'reasonable steps' to stop people that have banned themselves from using gaming machines from entering their venues. Facial technology is just one of many measures that may constitute reasonable steps and what is reasonable will differ between, say, a small country pub and a large club with hundreds of gaming machines," he said.

Originally published as NSW clubs say facial recognition technology will send them broke


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