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Virtual narcs boot Second Life casinos off the island

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The coding gnomes responsible for the virtual sanity environment known as Second Life pulled the plug yesterday on some of the most popular destinations in the virtual reality space – namely, the casinos that provide something to do other than swap sexes or species or indulge in bizarre sexual adventures.

Praise Jesus they’ve saved us from ourselves. Now we can all get off the island.

Linden Labs, the owners of Second Life, issued new policies Wednesday covering virtual casinos on the official Second Life blog, effectively eliminating the healthiest form of entertainment available there. Speculation about the legality of gambling with a virtual currency on a virtual space had been tossed about on various Second Life blogs since the passage of the Unlawful Internet Enforcement Act (UIGEA) last year concerning the legality of the virtual casinos. Not surprising, since the virtual currency, the Linden Dollar, is readily convertible to old-fashioned greenbacks.

Virtual currencies have started to raise eyebrows around the world, as more and more gaming sites use them to attract American, Chinese, or other players on thin legal ice in their home jurisdictions.

Linden Labs was concerned enough about the issue to call the FBI in for consultation a few months back. The policy change is sweeping and uniform, covering those in jurisdictions both friendly and hostile to internet gambling.

Policy: It is a violation of this policy to wager in games in the Second Life (R) 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.

This includes (but is not limited to), for example, Casino Games such as: Baccarat, Blackjack, Craps, Faro, Keno, Pachinko, Pai Gow, Poker, Roulette, Sic Bo, and slot machines. It also includes Sports Books or Sports Betting, including the placing of bets on actual sporting events against a book-maker or through a betting exchange.

Linden Lab will actively enforce this policy. 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.

Note the narc clause graciously thrown in at the end.

As a gambling correspondent, I have to confess my personal disappointment with the way Linden folded on this. Last fall I had cooked up a grand scheme – I would emerge as a black professional gambler in Second Life to woo Destiny Welles, while thumbing my nose at the DOJ as I converted my winnings into cold hard cash.

When I actually arrived at Second Life, and created my avatar, the reality of Second Life's virtual reality hit me square in the face. Sadville is lily white because you can’t create a black character out of the box – the best available was what could be described charitably as burnt Mexican. I would have had to buy black skin – which suspiciously costs the exact amount of Linden Dollars the Lab starts a new avatar off with. Not even money left for clothes. I would, in short, begin my second life black, naked and penniless.

It would have been refreshing to see someone stand up to the DOJ for once on this issue - if only to establish some clearer American legal precedent on just what kind of gambling exactly is illegal over the internet, other than sportsbooks, which clearly are illegal. Whether Linden lost or not at the lower court level, it would have made for a fascinating and welcome appeals process. What a bunch of pussies.

Peeved at being shafted for trying to be black, and irritated at the clunky interface, this is one correspondent that never went back.®

Burke Hansen, attorney at large, heads a San Francisco law office

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