Technology has slot machines staring back at players

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In the not too distant future, slot machine players might not need to insert their loyalty cards to rack up points. Using facial-recognition technology, the machines will simply “look” at the gambler and know who is playing.

At the Global Gaming Expo earlier this month, Las Vegas-based casino games developer Konami Gaming showed off a system that connects to existing slot machines. All the player would notice is a forward-looking camera attached to the machine.

It isn’t market-ready yet, but it’s likely only a matter of time before it finds its way to casino floors, said Tom Soukup, Konami’s chief systems product officer and senior vice president.

“Your face is basically your QR code,” Soukup said. “A lot of times, a player might forget to put their card in when they start playing and later wish they would have gotten their points. This is a usability that will be frictionless for the player.”

Konami also demonstrated a camera system to detect players at table games.

The industry reception to facial-recognition technology generally has been warm, but also, at times, hesitant, Soukup said. A certain level of customer acceptance would likely need to be met for the system to gain widespread use at casinos, he said.

Jay Fennel, vice president of gaming for Golden Entertainment, which owns the Strat and eight other casinos in Nevada, said Golden was intrigued by the technology but would “need to understand what we can and can’t do with this and what the public perception will be.”

“Certainly, I think it opens up some convenience factors,” Fennel said. “I’m not afraid to try out new technology, so I’d say we’ll likely be an early adopter, but this, I think, is a ways off from being ready to bring to market.”

Soukup said Konami hopes to have the technology in the first casinos late next year.

It’s important to note that Konami’s program is being designed to allow for consumer choice, with players having the ability to opt out and continue to use their loyalty cards, he said.

“Certain people will not like it, while others will find it a big convenience,” Soukup said.

The technology could also be valuable in other areas.

“In the future, people could be using their face to not only play at a slot machine or table game, but you might be able to go to the buffet and use your face to redeem a comp,” Soukup said. “As long as the customer sees benefit in this, that’s what will help it take off.”