Facial Readers and Security Threats at Land-Based Casinos

facial readers scanning a man's face
Facial Recognition. Image Credit: Shutterstock

Technology is leading the way in scientific innovation, with facial readers being one of the latest gadgets casinos use to bolster their security.

One of the cutting-edge technological advancements employed at casinos to assist with access control is the use of facial readers. However, as with all up-and-coming innovations, this technology has its pros and cons. This has resulted in many casino patrons and operators raising their concerns.

Facial readers take images of players’ faces and compare these with photos stored on various databases. Some of these databases are linked with law enforcement agencies. Similar technology is currently used during the Super Bowl, with all spectators having their faces scanned before accessing the arena.

Even though people expect cameras to scan the casino floors continuously, some gamblers become stressed when they learn that facial recognition is being used. This anxiety is similar to the feeling a person experiences at a police roadblock, even though they know they’ve not breached any laws. Being closely monitored tends to make people edgy, but it can also significantly reduce illegal casino practices.

The History of Facial Readers

The history of facial readers can be traced back to the early 1960s when Woodrow Bledsoe developed a system that could recognise faces using a computer. This system was based on the principle that facial features are unique and could be used to identify people accurately.

In the 1970s, researchers developed advanced facial recognition systems that used complex algorithms to analyse and compare facial features. Takeo Kanade developed one such method at Carnegie Mellon University, which used the principal component analysis technique to identify faces.


In the 1990s, facial readers significantly advanced as researchers developed systems that could recognise faces in real-world scenarios. One of the key breakthroughs was the development of the Viola-Jones algorithm. This method used a combination of Haar features and AdaBoost to detect faces in images and videos.

In the early 2000s, face recognition technology became more widely adopted. Companies like FaceFirst and Cognitec developed commercial systems for security and surveillance applications. Simultaneously, researchers began to explore using 3D scanning and modelling techniques to improve the accuracy and reliability of facial readers.

In recent years, face recognition technology has become controversial, with concerns raised about its impact on privacy and civil liberties. Some governments have used face recognition to monitor citizens, while civil rights organisations raised concerns about its accuracy and bias.

Even so, facial recognition software is not a violation of civil liberties since the cameras are used in a public place. Moreover, accurately identifying criminals benefits everyone.

Facial Readers and Land-Based Casinos

Facial recognition technology has been widely used in various industries, including security, law enforcement, and casinos. The first casinos to implement facial recognition technology were reportedly in Las Vegas in the early 2000s.

One of the first casinos to use facial readers was the Palms Casino Resort, which implemented its FaceIn system in 2003. This system was designed to scan the faces of people entering the casino and compare them to the exclusion list database of known cheaters and criminals. If a match was found, the casino security teams would be alerted, and appropriate action would be taken.

Other casinos soon followed suit, including the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino, which installed a facial recognition system in 2004 to identify known card counters and other cheats. The Venetian Resort Hotel Casino also introduced facial readers around the same time, which helped identify VIP guests and provide personalised service.

While the early implementations of facial recognition technology in casinos primarily focused on identifying cheaters and VIP guests, the technology has since been used for various other purposes. For example, many casinos now use facial readers to monitor players’ behaviour and identify potential problem gamblers.

Benefits of Using Facial Readers at Casinos

Using facial readers alongside casino surveillance cameras to analyse a database of past cheaters helps the security team to pinpoint scammers. The system can also disclose previous law infringements and even provide information on accomplices.

Face reader technology helps casino operators spot individuals previously charged with gambling-related crimes or banned from a casino. The generated information helps casino security pinpoint and remove a suspect player from the premises. Subsequently, this shields the casino and players from losing large sums of money that could later be difficult to recover.

Being a dynamic system, other casinos and law enforcement agencies continuously feed fresh images into the database. Sometimes, organisations that sell cheater databases provide casinos with the data they need to spot a scammer. 

When an individual walks into a casino, facial readers capture their image, and their picture is then transported to a second computer screen. From here, a systems operator can input category codes to describe the patron, such as race, age range, and gender.  

Other system images of people who fit these descriptions would then be analysed to determine whether the existing facial scan matches any stored images. If there are no matches, it’s likely that the individual is “safe” and doesn’t pose a threat to the casino. 

Should facial readers indicate potential matches, casinos can decide whether to throw the patron out immediately. Alternatively, they can closely monitor the person to see if they engage in any actions, such as money laundering, that require the assistance of the police.

Overall, facial recognition technology in casinos has become essential for ensuring security and providing a more personalised experience for guests.

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Bojan Lipovic - Digital Project Manager

Besides polishing his SEO skills, Bojan has a penchant for creative writing. With over half a decade of experience in the online gambling industry under his belt, his written take on the latest news from the Canadian and global gambling industries is an indispensable source of information for the CASINOenquirer team. Bojan’s primary goal is to ensure that players get a superior experience through the top-notch content that he shares.

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