30% failure rate for biometric pokies

30% failure rate for biometric pokies

Summary: The use of biometrics in pubs and clubs to reduce the incidents of problem gambling would suffer a 20 to 30 per cent failure rate, a parliamentary inquiry has heard.


The use of biometrics in pubs and clubs to reduce the incidents of problem gambling would suffer a 20 to 30 per cent failure rate, a parliamentary inquiry has heard.


(The far west slot machine image by Andres Rueda, CC2.0)

At the Joint Select Committee on gambling reform chaired by Independent MP Andrew Wilkie last week, Ian Donald, technical director for smart card company Regis Controls said that the biometrics would be an economically unfeasible technology for clubs to implement in curbing problem gambling. He said that biometrics in passports have a 10 per cent failure rate and this would only be compounded in a pub, club or casino environment, where he predicted failure rates as high as 30 per cent.

"About 12 per cent of the population do not have a fingerprint. They are too old or they have been engaged in manual work and it may have worn off. There is no wall on the end of their thumb. Biometrics are going to be a much more expensive solution," he told the committee.

"This is mainly because, if you have to maintain 197,000 biometric readers ... it is going to be extraordinarily expensive. You are looking at something like five times the cost for biometrics."

Donald said there would have to be many exceptions made to the system if biometrics were used.

"What do you do if an 80-year-old pensioner wants to play her favourite Black Rhino machine and she has no fingerprint? Do you make an exception? How many exceptions do you make?"

Donald said that biometrics would also be easily tampered with. Especially if a USB device is used, as has been floated as part of the review.

"It is very easy to overcome biometrics if you are a problem gambler, particularly if it is a USB. All you need is a screwdriver or a penknife and you can destroy the biometric."

Donald said USB thumb drives would be "overkill" to reduce problem gambling and advocated a smart card alternative. Donald said each smart card would cost $5 at most to produce and the system could be in place nationally by 2016, because roughly 50 per cent of the industry already had approximately 50 per cent of poker machines with smart card systems attached.

"I would do a pilot to see if this technology works in a club or pub. If you set a national standard by June next year for [electronic gaming machines] then I think by 2016, given the average life of a poker machine is about six years, you would find that 90 per cent were smart card enabled," he said.

Donald was quick to point out that although Regis Controls was involved in smart card systems, the company would not be bidding for any tenders that eventuated from the review.

Topics: Government, Government AU, Health, Security, Tech Industry


Armed with a degree in Computer Science and a Masters in Journalism, Josh keeps a close eye on the telecommunications industry, the National Broadband Network, and all the goings on in government IT.

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  • Seems to me that there is a conflict of interest here. A technical Director for a smart card company telling us that biometrics will not work (but smart cards are cheaper and more reliable).
    I also wouldn't mind knowing where he got the statistics for biometrics from - a failure rate of 3 in 10 sounds a bit high to me for a fingerprint scanner?
  • Wow! the things you learn on the internet.
    I'm 65 & upon examining my fingers just now discovered I no longer have any discernible prints.
    So I won't be able to play those pokies, but on the positive side, can go on a crime spree without worrying about leaving prints behind.
  • A response to the points Mr. Donald raises in this article may be read at:
    Failure rate for biometric pokies?

    If you're interested in biometrics for security and identity management, please consider reading.
    SecurLinx Blog
  • Ian Donald is an idiot and offers a very typical view from someone intent on protecting an old technology, smart cards, from the advancing new technology, biometrics. Frankly, his comments are irresponsible and disingenuous. Allow me to provide one single but huge flaw with his argument: let us suppose that a smart card system were adopted, then how would this prevent a problem gambler simply acquiring a new card or impersonate someone else using the 'clean' card of someone else?

    Aside from the clear bias of the advice, the statistics are frankly made up. I take no issue with factually-based statistics detailing the performance of a type of technology, but to confuse the debate and potentially prevent an enabling technology from solving a real and current social problem is simply unethical. I sincerely hope that the authorities see through this self-serving advice and perform the due diligence underpinning any significant technology investment.

  • These biometric failure rates come from fairyland. What Mr. Ian Donald hasn't told you (nor did he tell the Parliamentary Select Committee) is that he and his colleagues who presented at this hearing all own the Australian patent for the use of smart cards in the gambling industry. So he has a conflicted vested interest to push his own technology. He subsequently even suggested to the Committee that he should be appointed as a consultant to deliver the best solution for Australia. Can anyone guess what technology he would recommend as the solution?