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Ohio senator wants a five-year database of casino customer photos
Bill Coley says it would help track money-laundering and no one expects privacy in a casino

Web Editor
M.L. Schultze
Horseshoe casino has more than 1,000 surveillance cameras.
Courtesy of Kevin Niedermier
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The Senate version of Ohio’s budget gives the state the authority to keep a five-year photo database of every customer at every casino, racino and internet café in the state. WKSU’s M.L. Schultze spoke with the author of the measure who says it’s a needed crime-fighting tool, and not an overreach by government.

LISTEN: Coley on the casinos customer database

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Bill Coley is the Butler County Republican who chairs the Senate committee that oversees gambling and Ohio’s newest law enforcement agency, the Casino Control Commission. And he says the commission needs an extra tool: photos of all casino customers. Those images, he notes, are already gathered by the casinos for 30 days and the commission can access them. He now wants to combine them with facial recognition software and put them into a database for five years.

He says they’d be useful in fighting one very specific crime.

“Money laundering. Money laundering is related to so many other crimes because if you sell $100,000 worth of narcotics or if you’ve just committed a theft offense where you have large amounts of cash or you’re engaged in the crime of prostitution or things like that, you get large amounts of cash.

“You can’t just walk up and deposit (it) in your bank without sending sirens blaring and red flags flying. So what individuals who commit these crimes have found it necessary to do is to go into casinos and try to launder that money by … buying a lot of chips, pretending to gamble for a while and … saying how lucky they were and cashing out the chips out and pretending like they actually won all that at the casino that day.”

A different kind of database
Coley says he’s unaware of any other state that is storing the casino photos for as long as five years, but says the whole technology of facial recognition is new and evolving. He says it’s proved useful in cases from capturing Osama bin Laden to the Boston bombing suspects.

What he wants to do, says Coley, is “make sure Ohio gathers a database … that is indexed in the proper way and is of the correct technical specifications” to use in criminal cases. And he says it differs greatly from revelations of federal databases of phone calls and internet use over the past two weeks.

“What’s been going on in the national level is reprehensible. When you make a phone call to your friends and family, you have an expectation of privacy. … But when you go into a casino, you have no expectation of privacy, and if you’ve seen ‘Oceans 11’ or studied anything around a casino, you know everything in and around a casino is recorded.”

Ohio’s four casinos have not endorsed the bill. The owners of Horseshoe casino in Cleveland have issued a statement saying they’re monitoring is and noting that the casino does have more than a thousand surveillance cameras to “uphold the integrity of gaming and provide a secure gaming environment.”


Listener Comments:

Nice timing Coley, in the wake of the Verizon data collection fiasco. You just flipped a lifelong Republican to Independent.
What is happening to our country? I am trying to be nice, but this guy is a first class jerk from southern Ohio stump kicker land. I would vote for Hugo Chavez before this looney. Read Orwell, maybe you'll get more inspired.

Posted by: Mark (Chagrin Falls) on June 11, 2013 11:06AM
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