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Big Brother knows your Face 27/02/2001
Trump Marina surveillance director Charles Guenther
A system, using a science known as biometrics, was created at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology to use computers for human identification. It focuses on the eyes and and prominent facial points in order to build up a digital identity which can then be compared against other faces from a database.

That seems fine, but what if players in a casino were scanned using the MIT system, what if it were you? Once your face is in the computer it can be transmitted to other databases around the world, to anyone in fact that pays for the service. That is illegal in the U.K. but it doesn't stop people doing it.

The revelation after the fact that Tampa police used facial recognition software on people at the January 2001 SuperBowl triggered a furor among civil liberties experts, who called it intrusive. Law enforcement officials defended the use of the technology by saying it's similar to what American consumers are subjected to in banks, stores, apartment buildings and some public places.

Three of Atlantic City's 12 casinos — Trump Marina, Trump Taj Mahal and Trump Plaza — use it as part of their casino surveillance units. "It's a tool for us to identify people who could possibly come in and take advantage of our casino," said Trump Marina surveillance director Charles Guenther.

The technology's popularity could likely spread as the result of media coverage about its use on fans entering Raymond James Stadium in Tampa, Fla., for the SuperBowl.

Quick and efficient, facial recognition software brings casino surveillance into the 21st century, according to James Pepin, vice president of sales for Biometrica Systems Inc., of Mont Vernon, N.H., which leases the system to casinos for $675 a month.

Dave RappAnother face watcher is Dave Rapp. When he gets a call he heads to his pickup truck and flips open his laptop. With a few clicks, he sees a live shot of a player in a place as far away as Mississippi or just around the corner in Las Vegas, all from the comfort of his drivers seat. If the player was a card counter, it's a safe bet Rapp would know the face. He has 5,000 memorized.

For years Dave Rapp's method was part of the old way of catching "advantage players", professionals to you and me. Once a player was spotted in a casino, staff would look through pages of mug shots, hoping to see a match. Now he and everybody else are forced into going high tech, using the new computer programs that recognize faces, databases of suspects and networks that link nearly every casino in the country. A person playing blackjack in Las Vegas could be caught by virtue of his record at a casino in London -- in real time.
Andy Anderson
Here is Andy Anderson. He used to patrol the casinos, keeping an eye out for suspicious activity. Many pros began to recognize him and now he rarely enters. Instead, he lets technology do the work. He has put players mug shots into a computer program and markets the database to the casinos.

His service is for hire through his company, Casino Visual Identification. To look up a card counter in Anderson's program, a casino official clicks the mouse on the icon for the game the player is playing. Blackjack has a picture of a blackjack hand, craps is a picture of dice, roulette is a roulette wheel. Each game has a list of known cheats or card counters.

Each name has a picture or several to go with it, aliases the player uses and a list of associates. Plus, a casino can communicate directly with another casino, sending a live picture via a system similar to e-mail and asking: "You seen this guy?" Anderson's services can run up to $16,000.

Anderson used to work for the other main culprit of professional player identification, Griffin Investigations owned by Bob Griffin and his wife Beverly. Rapp also worked for the company.

Some London casinos have been tempted by the experts knowledge of professional gambling and have signed up to the Anderson program, transmitting live footage of players from their casino to the L.A. headquarters for I.D.. Investigation is currently underway to determine the legality.
Some good news is filtering through though. The general public and professional players alike will no doubt be heartened by the ruling in Canada that face recognition systems cannot be used in secret. Ontario's privacy commissioner says casinos must tell patrons they could be subject to face scanning. The Alcohol and Gaming Commission of Ontario, which oversees the eight casinos where the scans are done, said it will comply with the commissioner's ruling on public notification.