July 25th, 2007 by Benjamin Duranske
Second Life creator Linden Lab posted a policy clarification regarding gambling today, and it’s far more restrictive — and far more clear — than anything we’ve seen before. Though the subject of some debate, most commentators agreed that Linden Lab was flirting with trouble under its earlier policy given existing U.S. law. No longer.
Gone are the vague weasel words about advertisements “appearing to relate to simulated casino activity.” Gone are the easy outs for “Kasinos” and “Games.” They’re making it pretty clear here: “it is a violation of this policy to wager in games in the Second Life environment operated on Linden Lab servers if such games (1)(a) rely on chance or random number generation to determine a winner, OR (b) rely on the outcome of real-life organized sporting events, AND (2) provide a payout in (a) Linden Dollars, OR (b) any real-world currency or thing of value.”
They say they will actively enforce this, and outline some serious penalties that range from object removal to reporting the activity to real-world authorities.
The policy states, “If we discover gambling activities that violate the policy, we will remove all related objects from the inworld environment, may suspend or terminate the accounts of residents involved without refund or payment, and may report any relevant details, including user information, to authorities and financial institutions.”
My take on all this follows, and it might not be what you think.
Commentary – Linden Lab is Behaving Like a Grown-Up Company
Some of you aren’t going to like this policy, but you can’t deny that it’s clear. It’s points-with-subpoints-and-definitions-clear. It’s a 9-question-FAQ clear. You aren’t allowed to gamble in Second Life any more. Period. If you do, they’ll take your toys away. Some people aren’t going to like it, and I’m probably going to alienate some readers here, but I couldn’t be happier.
Why? Well, because though I don’t really care if they restrict gambling, or ageplay, or steampunk builds, or furry communes, or whatever (we’ll all just leave, probably to private grids, if we hate it enough) I do get upset when they don’t make it clear what the rules are. That’s been the problem all along with the gambling policy, and it’s also been the problem with the infamous policy against that which is broadly offensive. They fixed one of these today, and now the grid is a more certain place. That’s good for business, good for citizens, and overall, good for the future of Second Life.
It feels, to me, like Linden Lab grew up a lot here. For the first time in a long while, a potentially controversial policy statement has obviously been at least vetted, and probably written, by the legal department. Frankly, it reads better than a fair number of laws I’ve had to parse. So at the risk of alienating a lot of readers, I’m going to say… well done.
Is it perfect? No. For example, I already see a couple of potential loopholes. First, it looks like betting on real-world non-sporting events (e.g. the Oscars, Survivor, elections, etc.) isn’t prohibited. And second, it appears users can gamble on anything at all as long as the payout is in virtual goods. There are to be no payouts on games of chance in “(a) Linden Dollars” or “(b) any real world currency or thing of value.” So unless they are planning on sticking “(c) any” between the second “or” and the phrase “thing of value,” it looks to me like you’re allowed to bet a thousand Lindens against your bookie’s detachable penis on the outcome of a Reds game.
But really, even if they don’t patch up the text, are you going to bother? There are way better places to bet online anyway, and how long can it be before one of them opens a private server where you can make bets as your avatar?
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