Rhode Island Moves To Block Biometrics And AI In Gambling Applications


On Jan 26, the same pair of Rhode Island state representatives – Joseph McNamara and Brandon Potter – introduced two successive bills relating to the use of artificial intelligence.

The more relevant to Online Poker Report readers is HB 7222. This would prohibit the use of facial recognition technology and biometric recognition technology for video lottery terminals or online betting apps. It would also prohibit the use of AI to tailor the gameplay experience or rewards to an individual user.

HB 7223 would establish a commission to study the use of AI technology in decision-making processes of the state government.

Two days later, McNamara and Potter plus three more of their associates would introduce yet another bill. This one, HB 7230, would prohibit insurance companies from using certain information sources, AI, and predictive models based on external data, if such practices result in discrimination based on race or other demographic factors.

It appears that these two representatives have a particular interest in state regulations regarding potential abuses of modern technology like AI and facial recognition.

Impacts of HB 7222 on Rhode Island casinos

HB 7222 seems to be a forward-looking piece of legislation, with little impact in the immediate term.

Rhode Island’s primary gaming service provider is International Game Technology (IGT).

IGT supplies technology for the state’s online lottery and sports betting app. It also has a 60% interest in a joint venture with Bally’s, which operates the state’s casinos. Over 85% of the video lottery machines on the floors of the casinos come from IGT.

IGT does not use facial recognition or biometrics but they do have their hand in AI technology and data-driven algorithms. The company’s Intelligent Offers can be personalized to target players on losing streaks and customize promotions based on player behavior, demographics and location. Doing this with the goal of extending playtime or increasing spending would be blocked by Bill 7222. However, more traditional rewards programs remain legal.

Prohibited technology could indirectly benefit IGT

IGT owns the vast majority of games on the floors of Rhode Island casinos and signed a 20-year extension on its contract with the state and Bally’s last June. Even so, it faces some competition, primarily from Everi and Scientific Games.

Both Everi and Scientific Games have the ability to use facial recognition and AI technology. They seem to be ahead of IGT in this regard.

They advertise the benefits of their technology as providing new ways of spotting valued players, enhancing engagement, and improving marketing. The technology can also help with responsible gaming, for instance by spotting self-excluded players and preventing them from playing.

Everi and Scientific Games both have small floor space in the state at the moment. That doesn’t mean that they can’t be a threat to IGT in the future. Bill 7222 could therefore be a boon to IGT. It would prohibit Everi and Scientific Games from using their leading facial recognition and biometrics technology, in addition to blocking all three companies from the use of artificial intelligence.

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