Online Gambling to Get a Second Life?

    January 16, 2007

Second Life presents its residents with many unique opportunities for social interaction, commerce, and entertainment. Could virtual gambling be the next “feature” to be offered in Linden’s online world? If so, what would the offline legal ramifications look like?

The world of online gambling took a major hit last year when Congress passed legislation to deep six the practice in the United States. Major eGambling hot spots like PartyPoker and PokerStars immediately closed up shop in the U.S., and begrudgingly focused their operations toward Europe and Canada.

Enter Second Life, the virtual environment created by Linden Lab where you can do everything from buy a Coke to engage in your own customizable escapade with one of the online world’s… escorts, to put it delicately.

Now, you can add gambling to the list of Second Life activities in which one can engage.

Magnus Rothlisberger (related to Ben?) decided to give blackjack a whirl at a virtual casino located within Second Life. Initially, Magnus found success at the table, and it seemed that he had a foolproof gambling strategy on his hands.

Then, the cards began to run ice cold.

Three days later, Magnus found himself on the losing end of the equation. He had this to say about the final moments of his gambling spree:

I was shaking as the dealer turned his cards.(had I really bet L$346,180 in 3 days? That was roughly US $1,153. I wouldn’t bet that much in a RL casino. But it had happened so quickly and it didn’t seem like real money..until now).

Alas, this has been the lament of many a would-be online gambling professional.

My question, however, is what measures are being taken to insure the integrity of the games? Brick and mortar casinos must adhere to gaming commission regulations, but there are no such organizations to police these sorts of activities within Second Life. So, it’s a wonder that Mr. Rothlisberger didn’t end up losing more than $1,153 during his three-day gambling fest.

Even if Linden Lab developed some sort of virtual gaming commission, would gambling prove to be a revenue influx for the world? This Valleywag piece (Yes, I’m quoting Valleywag. Deal with it.) looks at the possibility:

A revenue model for Second Life other than laughable avatar bumping? Reality check: there’s only one reason to prefer the crude Benchmark-backed 3D environment over a purpose-built online casino. The Department of Justice, which tracks down online gambling in the US, and Paypal, through which many Second Life users fund their accounts, simply haven’t grokked yet what’s going on.

A Techdirt write-up continues the thought:

Of course, because Second Life decided to bring real world laws into their virtual world, it may only be a matter of time until we hear that the Feds have set up shop in Second Life as well, in order to crack down on such things… It’s going to be a blast to watch the jurisdictional battles that show up when governments start trying to enforce laws within Second Life.

Could Second Life be in for a DoJ crackdown? If so, will they create a S.W.A.T. team of avatars and stage a virtual raid on the casinos?

I sure hope so, because that would be something worth logging into the world to witness.

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Joe is a staff writer for WebProNews. Visit WebProNews for the latest ebusiness news.