If, like me, you've lost a few hundred Linden dollars on a virtual roulette wheel in Second Life, and were planning on returning sometime soon to win it all back -- you're out of luck. After coming under increasing scrutiny from the FBI and other law enforcers, Linden Labs has banned gambling in its virtual world.
Or more specifically, games which:
- rely on chance or random number generation to determine a winner
- OR rely on the outcome of real-life organized sporting events
So down come all those virtual casinos and other 3D gambling joints, and out goes all the painstakingly programed scripts designed to ensure that overzealous avatars, like me, keep losing money. Not to mention the devastating effect it could have in the in-world economy.
On the one hand, I won't miss the lack of gambling in Second Life, as from a moral point of view, I'm not a supporter of electronic betting (it's just far too easy). But at the same time, it feels like the beginning of the end of the 'wild west' that was Second Life's relatively hands-off policy, in terms of allowing users to build what they liked, and attempt to monetize it. With real-life laws being interpreted on the safe side, which Linden have to do in order to protect their investors and the survival of the virtual world as a whole, we can expect more blanket bans and top-down regulation.
I've written before about the inevitabality of real life laws interefing with the virtual world, with other examples such as libel, fruad and harrasment, being a likely candidate. As legal boundaries are pushed, and a precedent is set, will Second Life began to represent an equally regulated virtual version of real life? And if so, where's the fun in that?