Facing up to problem gambling: tracing the emergence of facial recognition technology as a means of enforcing voluntary self-exclusion

Neil Selwyn, Gavin Smith, Mark Andrejevic, Xin Gu, Chris O’Neill

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review


Computer technology has long been touted as a means of increasing the effectiveness of voluntary self-exclusion schemes – especially in terms of relieving gaming venue staff of the task of manually identifying and verifying the status of new customers. This paper reports on the government-led implementation of facial recognition technology as part of an automated self-exclusion program in the city of Adelaide in South Australia—one of the first jurisdiction-wide enforcements of this controversial technology in small venue gambling. Drawing on stakeholder interviews, site visits and documentary analysis over a two year period, the paper contrasts initial claims that facial recognition offered a straightforward and benign improvement to the efficiency of the city’s long-running self-excluded gambler program, with subsequent concerns that the new technology was associated with heightened inconsistencies, inefficiencies and uncertainties. As such, the paper contends that regardless of the enthusiasms of government, tech industry and gaming lobby, facial recognition does not offer a ready ‘technical fix’ to problem gambling. The South Australian case illustrates how this technology does not appear to better address the core issues underpinning problem gambling, and/or substantially improve conditions for problem gamblers to refrain from gambling. As such, it is concluded that the gambling sector needs to pay close attention to the practical outcomes arising from initial cases such as this, and resist industry pressures for the wider replication of this technology in other jurisdictions.

Original languageEnglish
Number of pages17
JournalJournal of Gambling Studies
Publication statusAccepted/In press - 2024


  • Computers
  • Facial recognition
  • Problem gambling
  • Self-exclusion

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