(via net.wars) The official Second Life blog has announced that it will ban gambling from the popular virtual world. The new policy bans all games of chance through random-number generators that provide a payout in Linden dollars or any real life currency. This includes all sorts of casino games (such as poker, Blackjack and Roulette), but also covers sports betting "including the placing of bets on actual sporting events against a book-maker or through a betting exchange".
Why this ban? For those unfamiliar with recent events in the United States, the Bush Administration has declared War on Online Gambling through the Security and Accountability For Every Port Act of 2006 (SAFE Port Act, those Americans sure know how to get cool acronyms into their legislation, huh?) You may be wondering about the name, right? You see, the Act deals with port security AND Internet gambling because, well, because, err... you got me there. What better way to pass legislation that erodes civil liberties than to marry it with legislation that deals with the War on Terror? You're either with us or against us, if you support online gambling you also support the terrorists, they all hate our freedoms; you know the rhetoric. But I digress...
This is a deeply troubling move by Second Life for so many reasons. Firstly, let me say that I have never gambled online, and I do not intend to do so. The extent of my gambling is to go once a year to a casino in Costa Rica to lose whatever I bet (I'm just unlucky that way). Moreover, I do not intend to ever gamble in Second Life (my contempt for that online world is well documented). However, I find this regulatory action by Linden Labs as an extremely worrying trend. So, the current American administration has a problem with online gambling? Good for them. But why should such an action be transferred to an online world inhabited by people from all over the world? This is regulatory action that goes beyond anything that exists in the law, and also exports a model to the rest of us.
I understand that Linden Labs are trying to reduce their liabilities, but to do so by banning activities that are legal almost everywhere else in the world is a vastly worrying development. We should all be concerned about private actions that have such extensive regulatory consequences.