Second Life Without Gambling

I go on vacation for just a week (and a couple days) and all heck breaks loose. In this case, the heck broke loose and fell from the grid. Chance gambling (poker, keno and the like) for money or such is now against the TOS in Second Life.

I’m surprised by the significant polarization between the pro and con factions of gambling, but even more suprised by some of the arguments I’ve seen that are used to support those positions. First, I need to say that I am generally opposed to gambling because there is seldom a method by which those that are susceptible to addiction can be kept from being controlled by that addiction. Second, I believe that people should be allowed to do as they wish as long as they do not entrench upon the rights of others. If there is some social responsibility in the gambling establishment, a way for people to have their losses limited and a way to ensure the fairness of the gaming, then I feel that gambling, in and of itself, should not be arbitrarily banned. But . . .

The servers that Second Life runs on are within the United States. Linden Labs is a company operating within the United States. Therefore, they are subject to the laws of the United States. The original TOS said that residents must obey by their local laws. True. But Linden Labs must also do so. If the United States says that it is illegal to house Internet gambling on their systems, then they must abide by that. I have no problem with this and I support their decision to ban such gambling.

I’ve seen people complain that the ban is unfair because they are located in country X and their customer is in country Y and online gambling is legal in those countries, so it should be allowed. This doesn’t change the fact that the software that does the gambling operation is running on a computer in the United States. In the country I am from, one cannot own a computer on which online gambling is being run. For example, ABC company, based in my city, owns a server farm in Costa Rica. That server farm hosts online gambling. ABC company would be breaking the law. But if DEF company owns the server farm and ABC company provides software development and support for the gambling software, that is permitted. Go figure.

Laws don’t always make sense. They are not always consistent. But they are laws and we must abide by them even if we chose to challenge them in court or through other means available to us. That’s part of what lobbyists do in the US. Senators and members of Congress can work to change the system. But, if a company contravenes the laws to which it is subjected, it faces the possibility of going out of business. Hardly what many users of Second Life would want.

I’ve seem people say that Second Life has stepped onto a slippery slope. They suggest it is just a matter of time before other behaviours are banned. Well, if it is illegal for Linden Labs to harbour such activities, then they probably will be. Sucks, but that is the way it is. To blame Linden Labs because of their compliance with their local laws makes no sense. Nor do many of the arguments that proceed along this line. Guns, for example. People have said it is just a matter of time before shooting with guns in SL is banned. Hogwash. Shooting people inappropriately has always been against the TOS. But, in an RP sim, where players consent to the activity, there is no difference between that and playing Battlefield on your computer. Nor is there any significant difference between that and paintball in real life. Those aren’t illegal, so it is very, very unlikely they will be banned in SL. 

Linden Labs made the appropriate decision even if it is an unpopular one. Yes, there will be people who leave. That is their decision. There will be those who now say “What now?” and then go learn all the other fun activities available to them. There are tonnes of things to do: skydiving (shameless plug: try my steampunk skydiving lift in SteamSkyCity), sailing, exploring, meeting people from all parts of the planet with differing or similar views of life, learning, building, etc . . . . When I first started on SL, I thought that the whole world consisted of gambling and sex, but soon found that to be a very small part. I’ve met people that I would never have met anywhere else. I’ve made friends and have had a lot of fun, all of it without online gambling or sex (hey, I just got RL married and am totally committed to my new bride, so SL sex just seems strange to me).

Of course, now I’m just waiting for the casino land to go for sale at bargain basement prices!


3 thoughts on “Second Life Without Gambling

  1. While I don’t disagree with the sentiments behind your thoughts, the line of reasoning of The servers that Second Life runs on are within the United States. Linden Labs is a company operating within the United States. Therefore, they are subject to the laws of the United States is rather false. SL has banned depictions of real pornography, something perfectly legal in the US (and for that matter the US Supreme Court has expressly said that digital representations of child sex do not count as child pornography, but that’s another story).

    Many of the servers used by Linden labs are also overseas. And from recent reports I am lead to believe that German players now outnumbers their US counterparts. And five years ago the Australian High Court ruled that the location of a person reading an online article counted as the location the article was published in, regardless of the location of the server where the article was hosted.

    Internet law is so much a mass of grey. Rather like logging into a new sim in high lag. And while I’m certainly not going to miss gambling in SL, I rather doubt that it’s simply a case of LL following the law.

  2. Hello Mr Pearse,

    Although some of their servers may be in other countries at this time, that does not change the fact that Linden Labs is a US company operating within the United States and is thus subject to US law.

    With respect to Internet gambling, the US has made it illegal for a company to do financial transactions for Internet gambling. The Internet Gambling Enforcement Act prohibits a company from accepting funds from would-be US gamblers. Linden Labs is subject to that law, regardless of where the game operator is. Because of the nature of LSL, it would be excedingly difficult for LL to predetermine if a device which accepts/gives funds is a vendor or a game and it would thusly be just as difficult to ensure that a US gambler does not make use of the game. They would pretty much need to police the whole grid. It seems pretty clear to me that LL is mitigating risk.

    To counter the questions of jurisdiction, the act makes it illegal for a company to act as the financial middleman. In other words, Bob’s Casino (made up!) in Antigua has a poker game within SL. Fred (also made up!) in Oregon bets on the game. If US jurisdiction cases eventually hold that the game is outside of US jurisdiction, the act of transferring money would be within US jurisdiction as LL is in the US.

    Because of the level of abstraction provided by hosting services, I think that the Australian court’s decision makes sense. I believe that issue is still up in the air within the US.

    I agree that Internet law is very grey at this point. Quite unfortunate, but companies like Linden Labs sometimes need to err on the side of caution if they don’t wish to risk their business. I understand their decision to ban gambling and still support that decision based upon current US law and the need to ensure that their business remains viable.

    I’m not pleased with they abruptness with which the decision was made and I feel that restitution should be made for those with losses. The TOS had given a sense of all-is-good for gambling, even though the writing was on the wall a couple months ago when the FBI went looking into SL gambling.

    As for the porn . . . . I hadn’t heard what you mention about the US Supreme Court. By digital representation, are they talking about two avatars that appear to be children? Or a scanned image of child pornography? I’d be quite surprised (and disgusted) to hear the latter. The former would need context as well. Mind you, in my country, depiction of a minor performing a sexual act is illegal, even if the actors are adults.

    As for Linden Labs banning all things “broadly offensive,” I think they have over reacted there. My guess is that they saw potential for costly lawsuits and decided to wipe it out, throwing the baby out with the bath water. In the end, though, I don’t think that particular decision has significantly damaged the virtual world in which we virtually live.

    But back to gambling . . . . I don’t feel that the US laws are proper nor are they effective. I do think that LL must ensure their own livelyhood. The US laws aren’t likely to change soon, so LL must ensure they abide by them, while supporting lobbying to change them. At least they did a little better job at defining what is not permitted than they did with the “broadly offensive” debacle!

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