by Alphaville Herald on 17/08/08 at 8:21 pm
Does Linden Lab approve of gambling for Z$s purchased with L$s ?
by Pixeleen Mistral, National Affairs desk
Just over a year ago, Linden Lab banned gambling in Second Life, a change that sent the in-world economy into a tailspin as virtual casinos across the grid shut down and gamblers took flight from the Lab’s virtual world entertainment product. But now, the casinos are back — operating under an interesting interpretation of both US law, and apparently within the Linden’s Terms of Service, according to the virtual casino owners.
How is this possible? The creators of the Z$ Zorkmid fictitious currency claim there is a loophole in both the TOS and US law. By using a fictitious currency which cannot be converted directly into L$s, playing games of chance is not really gambling – instead it is a harmless and legal entertainment.
After not gambling on roulette, slot machines, black jack, and similar amusements, pretend punters can pay L$1 to play a game of skill and convert their Z$ winnings into L$s. The object of this game is to match pairs of identical images – with a two minute time limit. The level of skill required is such that most metaverse residents are very unlikely to lose unless they are subject to one of the seemingly random crashes of the SL client software – or massive lag.
Z$ gaming appears to be popular – the SL client search returns around 300 matches for a search on “Zorkmid”, and I made several visits to a number of Z$ casinos to make some short term speculative investments with the high-risk portion of the SL Herald pension fund.
At first, I was troubled by idea that I would need to establish a Z$ account – but buying Z$s from a vendor seemed to take care of that automatically. I was also spared the trouble of reading a “Terms and Conditions of Use” agreement until after I clicked OK to agree to establish an account – the notecard with the agreement arrived once I clicked to OK button. Apparently the legal system in metaverse casinos does not require informed consent.
Linden Governance team members seem strangely reluctant to directly address the question of the legality of the Z$ gambling scheme. I talked with Socrates Linden and three other G-team Lindens during the G-team office hours Saturday but Socrates was more interested in touting a Torley Linden video than answering questions about gambling policy – I was invited to file an abuse report if I felt there was a problem. The Z$ casinos say that they have abuse reported themselves without any ill effect, and are now claiming tacit approval for their scheme from Linden Lab.
Reliable sources say that at least two Linden staffers have privately told residents that the Z$ scheme passes muster and residents are passing the good word. Could gambling growth lead to reversing the loss of premium land owning accounts in SL? A certain reluctance to go totally public on this policy issue is unsurprising, and allows the Lab to benefit from the growth generated by gambling without being subject to real world legal scrutiny — at least for now.
Gambling in SL is not limited to people – even furries are known to try their luck. I met a gambling cat at one of the casinos. Topaz Hawker had just started exploring the games and had not yet settled on a favorite, then excused himself to go take a nap, saying “it exhausting to get up from nap playing mouse stretch and then catch another nap”.
On my way out of the Zynadu South casino, I stopped to play a slot machine originally created by Philip Linden, now retro-fitted to work with Z$ spacebux. I’m sure Philip is proud of the residents’ creativity – and with LL apparently accepting the Z$ approach to gambling, can we look forward to a growing population of cats gambling in SL?