Op/Ed: Civics for the Un-Civil

by Alphaville Herald on 28/07/07 at 8:14 pm

…Or How to Effectively Protest the Second Life Gambling Ban

by Carl Metropolitan

Linden Lab announced their new “no gambling” policy on Wednesday, and by Thursday afternoon, it had already provoked significant—but misdirected—protests from a normally quiet section of the Second Life population and the dozens lengthy forum threads.

Cheers to the protesters and posters both on their involvement, but complaining to Linden Lab about the new “no gambling” policy is both misguided and a waste of time. Linden Lab is the US. Its servers are in the US, too. As such they are bound by US law. Robin and Ginsu did not just wake up yesterday morning and decide to do this. SL’s “no gambling” policy was created in response to the “Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act of 2006″ section of the “SAFE Port Act”. To learn more about the “Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act of 2006″, check out this summary from Wikipedia on the law and its history.

After consulting with both the FBI and their lawyers, Linden Lab made the difficult but necessary decision to ban gambling here in SL. Difficult—because it hurts their bottom line. Banning gambling here will reduce volume on the Lindex – which LL take a cut of, will reduce purchases on the Lindex – some of which is new L$ printed by Supply Linden, causes casino owners to tier down and pay less US$ to LL, and greatly irritates a lot of their customers – who will bitch at them, even more than usual. It should be pretty clear that LL did not want to do this. They delayed and looked for an out about as long as they could without running the risk of Philip doing the “perp walk” on CNN.

So if you want to make your voice heard, you are going to have to protest to a much more distant and unresponsive behemoth than Linden Lab—the US Government. The best way to do that is to write your congressman. If you don’t live in the US, you can encourage your friends in the US to do so.

In April of this year, Congressman Barney Frank introduced a bill known as HR 2046, the Internet Gambling Regulation and Enforcement Act (IGREA). This bill would legalize—and regulate—online gambling in the US. If this is an issue you care about, read the bill. You can see the full text, legislative history, and cosponsors of this bill here. IGREA is not a free for all; it does regulate internet gambling. It would force SL casinos to be licensed and pay fees and taxes, and make reports—or affiliate in some manner with a larger entity that does. If you think that’s inappropriate, you might not want to support the bill. Like most acts of Congress, it’s far from pretty.

To find out whom your congressional representative is, and then to write them, go here and enter your state and ZIP code. That will lead you to a form where you can email your congressperson. You may need to follow the link from that page to a US Postal Service site where you can get your entire ZIP + 4 code, if you don’t know it already.

protest to a much more distant and unresponsive behemoth than Linden Lab

Then do it. Mention the specific bill above by name and number. Tell your representative why he or she should support and cosponsor it. Try to be rational, polite, reasonably concise, and spell check your email. It does no political cause any good to be associated with a disproportionate percentage of cranks! If your house member is already one of the 31 current cosponsors of the bill, write him or her anyway and thank them for their attention to, and support of this issue.

The IGREA bill is currently in the Subcommittee on Commerce, Trade and Consumer Protection. If your congressional representative is one of 29 members of that subcommittee, your letter has even more clout than normal. For the bill to have a chance of passing, it needs a favorable report out of the subcommittee (or get attached at midnight to a “sure to pass” bill—but let’s not go there). A full list of representatives on that subcommittee is here.

Doing a bit of research up front can help make your letter more effective. If you know what your representative’s party affiliation you can slant the letter is such a way so that he or she (or more realistically their staff) assumes you are “one of them”. If it were me, I’d complain to a Democrat about “a loss of civil liberties perpetrated at the last minute by the lame duck Republican congress”, and to a Republican about “another big government nanny state law that stifles the entrepreneurial spirit and the free market”.

If you donated to their campaign or to their party, mention it. Don’t be rude or demanding, though. Language like “As a long time supporter and donor, I was very disappointed to see…” is appropriate; “I own your ass” is not. Unless you really do own their ass, in which case, a private meeting in their office can be easily arranged and you don’t need lobbying advice from me…

If you vote regularly, mention it. Don’t lie, they can check to see if you are on voter rolls. They can’t tell who you voted for, but if you come out and vote every two years, they will pay attention. If you don’t, make sure they know that this issue has stuck close to home and that you are very passionate about it and are going to register to vote. Then go register. If it turns out that the choices are too disgusting to contemplate come next November, you can always do what I do and vote Libertarian. We make a great vote of conscience, because there’s no chance of us actually winning!

You may have heard that emails are a bad way of contacting your congressional representative, and that paper letters are what they pay attention to. That used to be true—in the days before the Anthrax attacks on Capital Hill of late 2001. Since then, congress has “gotten religion” on email. They now prefer email. Though if you dig down at www.house.gov you can find your representative’s fax number, and send a fax, too.

Will all this do any good? Who knows; trying to affect change via Congress is always a crapshoot. But you guys are gamblers. You’re should be used to long odds.

22 Responses to “Op/Ed: Civics for the Un-Civil”

  1. Economic Mip

    Jul 28th, 2007

    Dear Representative Cynthia Ann McKinney,

    I realize that you are no longer in office, but you are perhaps the only one irrational enough to consider this polite request. You see, I am a stereotypically Second Life user, complete at times with a tail and insane gambling addiction. I absolutely must have my slots, despite their skewed odds, and absolute lag. So could you please support this progambling bill, despite its absolute lack of potential to pass either the Senate or House, and oh the fact that it would bring regulators and taxes to a world where nothing really exists except the cash that people are dumping into it?

    Best always,


  2. Obscure Doodad

    Jul 28th, 2007

    A bit of applause for the USA politically neutral tone of this SLH article. In general Wikipedia is not valuable for political subject matter (because a paid staff exists funded by left wing organizations to define Wikipedia content) so one ignores it for such things, but for purely factual matters it has some modest value — and in this case we have:

    “. . . Unlawful Internet Gambling and Enforcement Act that was included in the SAFE Port Act signed into law by George W. Bush on October 13th, 2006.[7] The UIGEA was added in Conference Report 109-711 (submitted at 9:29pm on September 29, 2006), which was passed by the House of Representatives by a vote of 409-2 and by the Senate by unanimous consent on September 30, 2006. Due to H. Res. 1064, the reading of this conference report was waived. . . ”

    The overwhelming vote number there of 409-2 makes it clear that this bill was passed with no significant opposition from either party. This was not a matter of “filthy intrusive Republicans imposing their morality on America”, nor was it a matter of “left wing wacko liberal Democrats trying to shut down yet another manifestation of American backbone capitalism.”

    This was almost certainly the RL casinos in the US paying who needed to be paid on both sides of the aisle to get that drain from their revenue erased. They succeeded.

    So the protest is about a law. Not about LL. LL complies or management goes to jail. And all those about to stand up and demand the servers be moved overseas, please also stand up and offer . . . oh . . . about 10,000 Euros each to fund the necessary enticements to get employees to rip their kids out of local schools to move to an offshore locale with no schools.

  3. Melissa Yeuxdoux

    Jul 28th, 2007

    A concise, helpful article, not saturated with the author’s ego or pathetic attempts at humor. I had to look back to make sure I was reading the SL Herald.

    I hope this change continues.

  4. Brent C

    Jul 28th, 2007

    Obscure. you do know that Linden Labs has an Office in Brighton, England. They could have servers there too.

  5. Mako Mabellon

    Jul 29th, 2007

    Obscure Doodad: from reading the article, the Unlawful Internet Gambling and Enforcement Act was actually incorporated into another act – the SAFE Port Act – relating to the security of ports and other maritime facilities. That’s not something that can be easily voted against. Anyone who tried would probably wind up with attack ads against them next election claiming they helped the terrorists.

  6. SLJustice

    Jul 29th, 2007

    Dedicated to the virtual freedoms of avatars everywhere.



  7. Obscure Doodad

    Jul 29th, 2007

    Mako, you’re right. It was. But that is not relevant. No one voted against it. It’s very popular for congress critters to vote for bills and then say they didn’t agree with portions of it, but so what? They voted how they voted. Any of them can vote no and ask for the bills to be split out. Happens all the time, and people doing so get re-elected all the time.

    In this case, Las Vegas bought votes on both sides of the aisle. It was not a partisan issue.

    I’m not sure what the Brighton issue means. I suppose the matter of schools — but I didn’t see any offer of 10,000 Euros to fund the enticements.

  8. FlipperPA Peregrine

    Jul 29th, 2007

    Great article, Carl – a nice change of pace from the old guard, heh.

    Unfortunately, it’s much more fun and easy to just blame Linden Lab for all the world’s woes, post on forums, and generally be dramatic and negative than actually trying to enact a change for the positive. That’s what will continue.

  9. Carl Metropolitan

    Jul 29th, 2007

    FlipperPA Peregrine wrote:
    “Great article, Carl – a nice change of pace from the old guard, heh.”

    Melissa Yeuxdoux:
    “A concise, helpful article, not saturated with the author’s ego or pathetic attempts at humor.”

    Thanks for the compliments, but reading between the lines (which is always fraught with uncertainty), I suspect that the two of you are talking about Prokofy Neva. If so, I’m afraid can’t agree.

    Prokofy’s articles (and comments) are my favorite part of the Second Life Herald. I love the fact that he doesn’t just attack sacred cows–but slaughters them, grinds them up, and serves them as hamburger. My personal style tends toward the non-confrontational (though tinged with a leavening of sarcasm, at times), but I have the greatest respect for his work here. In many ways he’s the heart and soul (and sometimes the conscience) of the Herald. He’s a nice guy, a good friend, and quietly does a lot for the Second Life community as a whole.

    If either of you were talking about another controversial and extremely prolific Herald writer, please accept my apologies for misinterpreting your remarks.

  10. Gxeremio Dimsum

    Jul 29th, 2007

    Where to start?

    Carl, this move by LL was almost certainly not because they thought they were breaking US law – because frankly, it’s not clear they were, and there are other things that happen in SL (like porn, securities trading, banking, and tax evasion) that are equally or more clearly against US law. I would love to see a mock trial on this issue, and I think LL (before the ban) would have gotten off scot-free. No, the law is not the real issue. This is an attempt at an image cleanup, and an inept one at that.

    Economic, wagering has been against the law for several days, yet lag and server load are as bad as ever. If anything good comes of this, it might be finally rebutting the ridiculous assertion that casinos and clubs were what was wrong with SL’s infrastructure.

    Obscure, the UIGEA provision was proposed and shepherded almost exclusively by Republicans, most of whom had no ties to the gaming industry in Vegas or otherwise. It’s a morality thing.

    However, again, this move by LL is not really about the UIGEA or any other law, it’s about image. The passage of a new law that would allow online gaming (with licenses) wouldn’t result in them reallowing casinos, either. Their likely excuse would be that LL wouldn’t be eligible for a license, and they couldn’t verify which inworld casinos had them. So lobbying the government would have no effect on the likelihood of SL gaming.

  11. fdsfgs

    Jul 29th, 2007

    PN here in ur articlez, supportin la resistance

    srs business


  12. Lisae Boucher

    Jul 29th, 2007

    Interesting article but since I don’t live in the USA and many other members don’t live in the USA, I can’t help but wonder what non-Americans we can do about this. We can’t vote and I doubt Congress would listen to our complaints. So, any suggestions?

  13. Nacon

    Jul 30th, 2007

    “We can’t vote and I doubt Congress would listen to our complaints. So, any suggestions?”

    Yeah…. stay out and build a land for LL to be apart from any country’s ground law.

    Seriously… get over it and get a real job.
    (you always can make a casino in your own home)

    “We make a great vote of conscience, because there’s no chance of us actually winning!”
    And not forget to mention that there’s no real chance of actually winning a casino if they were legal at all, hardly.

    The law was created not because they wanted to control you but wanted to control a form of society which should have been in the first place. Founding Fathers of USA wanted to get away from greedy controlling idiot whom lack of manner for other people, no matter how poor they were, King George so badly. To live in a equal manner society. Think casinos are being fair with your money? If you want to be abused, go live outside of USA. I’m sure you’ll find a big difference.

    Whenever I hear people chanting “freedom”, all I can think is “anarchy”. When it come to anarchy, how do you trust other people from abusing you? from killing you? from stealing stuff during your sleep? from raping you with a broken condom? All that when they have their rights to do it to you?

    Screw freedom, human without respects are hidden disease to all society.
    Such a shame that we still have some of those people in USA.

    Casino are one of them, abusing people whom has lower IQ. Ask yourself… How often does a person with higher IQ ever lose at Casino?
    I’m sure people with high IQ can count cards in their head. They’d win, but Casino don’t allows card counters… ever wonder why they don’t want you to use your own brain to win? Cause they want you to lose money to them no matter how good you should be. Go count how many people walked into Casino to play and count how many ever win. Go ahead guess how Casino are paying for their new building, which easily built in a month or 3. With bunch of lighting crap all over it, the power bill would be so damn thick that you can’t imagine how you could’ve used it all up in your own home.

    Ever heard why Las Vegas was also known as “Sin City”? If it was the Churches said that… then where are the gothic, paganus, satan’s whores, heathen folks, wicca people? So pretty damn sure you won’t find them in Casino. Ahh hell… Church has nothing to do with it… Bright people called them Sin city because they knew it’s all about stealing your poor hard earned money with pathetic odds to win.

    Sure… they would say “we’re not stealing if they are paying us”…. no but they sure know how to work with human’s addiction and brainwashing color lights. Bunch of poor strippers performers, so busy spinning their tats to get your damn attention. Bunch of open bars where you can wash your brain down with alcohol so you can be so dumb to pay even more money out of your pocket. Never knew what people are laughing about? I’m sure it wasn’t because someone told a good knock knock jokes, they were laughing at you, doing in their bidding.

    Don’t be an idiot. Casino is not your home.

  14. jasmine_Anadyr

    Jul 30th, 2007

    “Secondlife: keeping that nasty gambling money out of our pure porn economy.”

    I agree with the article and this cannot be about LL cleaning up their image. Why would they clean up gambling before sex industry. It doesn’t make sense.

  15. Lisae Boucher

    Jul 30th, 2007

    Quote: (you always can make a casino in your own home)

    Not in the Netherlands, unless you limit the number of visitors to just friends and colleagues. It’s funny but these last months playing Poker has become extremely popular here. So popular that losers have started to complain very loudly about the amount of money they’ve lost. Then again, those amounts start to become ridiculously high. Result? Many people with large debts because they played and lost.

    You might not realize it but outside the USA, gambling might be even more limited than you think. In the Netherlands there’s Holland Casino which is the only company as far as I know which can legally have casino’s here. There are plenty of slot machines in bars and other locations, though. But even those are under very strict control. Organizing any tournament with a reasonable amount of price money (Say, a few hundreds of Euros) will require a proper license and of course there will be taxes too on the price money.

    And it’s funny but technically I could visit some foreign gambling site and gamble all my money away, then contact my credit card company and demand a refund of all my money since online gambling is illegal in the Netherlands and thus none of my money can be given to some organization that violates the law. I would of course also end up in a legal dispute myself, though. Not wanting to try and lose a lot of money this way.

    Quote: Casino are one of them, abusing people whom has lower IQ.

    Some, yes. The biggest problem here are things like slot machines where things are completely random. They eat up just small amounts of cash every time but you also end so close to winning that you just try and try over and over again. Sometimes you even win a bit thus you just continue to gamble away your latest winnings again. It’s not people with low IQ’s whom are abused. It’s greedy people who are abused. And to be honest, I think losing at gambling is a fitting punishment for greedy persons…

    Quote: I’m sure people with high IQ can count cards in their head.

    I know I can. But it’s no use when you’re playing electronic card games or when the deck gets reshuffled after every game.

    Quote: Ever heard why Las Vegas was also known as “Sin City”?

    City of Greed, right? People go there for the money because without all the gambling it’s nothing more than a desert.
    True, the casino’s in Vegas earn so much that they can afford giving away rooms and free drinks to visitors. As long as people will gamble there. And you could wonder why casino’s even manage to make a decent profit if all they do is pay out as much as they receive themselves.
    Then again, it seems to me that they’re not earning money on just the gambling. They’re a bit like banks. Places where a high volume of cash trades hands. Millions of little transactions with possibly even smaller transaction fees. Like a bank, casino’s make money through all those little transactions. And I know, it sounds unbelievable but it’s not. Casino’s are like banks, except that the money they keep isn’t linked to a specific bank account. They just move it around from one person to the next. And with every move, they earn a little. These are micro-payments but if you have enough micro-payments…
    So I do believe that respectable casino’s will keep all games fair. There will of course always be exceptions, though.

    But what is the difference between regular casino’s and online/SL casino’s? Well, in Second Life the transactions are even smaller and the methods to earn money by investments or interest is even more limited. There are no banks in SL yet where you can deposit your cash for later. It’s Linden Labs themselves where you can add credits to your account and perhaps reserve large amounts of cash for later. So I think that there will be people in SL who will take advantage of the greed of others by changing the odds a bit.
    And I think that the same problem applies to online gambling. There will be casino’s that make sure people have a fair chance but it’s so easy to set up a webpage dedicated to gambling online. But unlike a real casino with real cards and chips and whatever, all electronic gambling games can have the weirdest odds and most will favor their owner.

    Question remains: what is the biggest economic boost in Second Life? Gambling is big, but not the biggest, I think. Prostitution and porn are high too but still don’t think they’re the biggest. Generic shops can make a decent living if they sell enough stuff but the problem with shops is that you need lots and lots of new visitors all the time. Because once people have bought what they need, they’re probably not going to buy a lot more.
    No the biggest economic boost in SL are still the custom jobs, where residents are asked to build something specific for another user, often for fairly large amounts too. Comparable to what you would earn with any decent regular job. So what we need are people who build and people who want something being build for them. And there are plenty of both in SL. They are the main economic powers. So the disappearance of gambling and even porn might cause a little dent, it will not hurt the economy a lot in the long run.

  16. SqueezeOne Pow

    Jul 30th, 2007

    “Congress can vote “no” and ask the bills to be split up”—what planet is this on?

    Considering most of SL gambling is slot machines, I say good riddance!! Video Poker’s a joke and so are most of the games in SL. You think those things are ACTUALLY generating random numbers? No. I’m sure there are some honest scripters making honest machines but in a gaming industry that’s all about earning money while giving the player the illusion of a possibility to win it’s too easy to rig the system. Has no one here seen the movie Casino?? Come on, addicts!!

    I don’t have a problem with RL gambling with card games, though. Those are harder to fake (but still possible obviously).

    But if you want to give away your money to feel like you could make some money then go for it. I play a similar game…it’s called SL.

  17. Loloz Oh

    Jul 30th, 2007

    Protip: Don’t use wikipedia as a source in a news article.

    Other than that…wtf this is waaay too good to be a herald article.

  18. Jellin Pico

    Jul 30th, 2007

    You know, if thee was some sort of legal oversite for in world casino’s, regulating the odds, enforcing payouts even if Oh No they’re really big and the owner just doesn’t want to acknowledge that someone beat the badly skewed odds and won, then I might have sympahy for the gaming business in world.

    However, I always thought of every casino as a scam and every casino owner a scammer.

    Don’t let the proverbial door hit your virtual ass on the way out.

  19. Nacon

    Jul 30th, 2007

    “Why would they clean up gambling before sex industry. It doesn’t make sense.”

    San Francisco’s Law on gambling…. duh. It wasn’t LL’s choice.

  20. Mickey Mouse

    Jul 30th, 2007

    Quote “Robin and Ginsu did not just wake up yesterday morning and decide to do this.” Unquote.

    Really then why did they give casino owners zero time to sort there land out the paying of tiers etc. If they knew of this months ago surely the right way of doing things is to give notice anywhere in the world if no policy has been broken and fees etc paid up to date. It just goes to show that Linden Lab really is Mickey Mouse !!

  21. Ordinal Malaprop

    Jul 30th, 2007

    Well, wonderful. In a drastically incoherent post, Nacon affirms that he or she doesn’t like gambling, and anyone who does is stupid. Thank you for that.

    For everyone else who does like gambling, or sees nothing particularly wrong with it, and is a US citizen, this seems like good advice.

  22. Rocket Hudson

    Jul 30th, 2007

    Some comments on this story have suggested hosting the gambling sims at Linden’s UK offices in Brighton. This would still be illegal under UK law.

    In fact, it would be against the law of almost every country in the world. The only way to operate a legal on-line casino is to have a license from the local government. Which is expensive and usually has many restrictions, none of which SecondLife would be in compliance with. Anyone who thinks this is a purely USA based issue doesn’t really know much about the gambling industry.

Leave a Reply