Virtual speakeasies defy Second Life gambling ban

Tue Aug 14, 2007 12:49pm PDT

By Eric Reuters

SECOND LIFE, August 14 (Reuters) - “Miss C.” jumped down a manhole into a sewer squeaking with virtual rats. She waded through waist-deep green sludge to emerge into her newest build: an underground casino equipped with state-of-the-art poker tables.

Last month, Linden Lab banned gambling in Second Life, bringing a thriving casino industry to an abrupt end. But while the old casinos have shut down, a vast network of illicit speakeasies have sprung up in their place, providing gamblers with new places to play.

Poker players in Second Life say anyone looking for a game can easily find one.

“Gaming still goes on here, oh yes, virtual speakeasies are popping up all over,” said Mr. Rockin, a Second Life resident who didn’t want his first name used. Players typically find tables through messages sent out over pro-gaming groups, word of mouth, or blog posts.

Miss C., a Dutch citizen who declined to be identified due to the illicit nature of her business, ran a poker room before the ban, but had trouble competing with the larger casinos. When her competition closed shop, she started reaping new customers.

“Nobody wants to stop playing,” she said.

C’s current operation is on group-owned land, and she’s building new gaming rooms, like the one in the sewer, on other sims. The idea, she said, is that if one speakeasy gets raided and shut down, the others will keep running.

Business is booming. Just since the ban, Miss C has hired seven new dealers to handle the overflow traffic, and reports her profits are up by a factor of twenty. She takes a rake, or casino commission, of three percent of every pot.

Casino owners who shut down their operations are outraged by the illicit upstarts.

“Here I am, an honest person that follows policy, and I lose out because they [Linden Lab] can’t enforce the rules they hand down,” said T0xic Scissor, whose Four Deuces casino used to be one the biggest poker rooms in Second Life. “Now every jokester that jumped on the bandwagon and bought a table and a little piece of land are reaping the benefits of Linden Lab’s lack of enforcement.”

“We’ll do the best we can to enforce the policy,” said Robin Harper, Linden Lab’s Vice President for Community and author of the anti-gambling policy, in a Second Life interview. Linden has issued more than a dozen citations for gambling, and Harper said repeat offenders would be banned from Second Life.

“As long as the servers are owned and operated by Linden Lab in the US, we need to make our decisions with respect to US law,” she said.

Harper said Linden Lab typically finds out about gambling either through the in-world abuse reporting system, or by seeing advertisements. Beyond that, enforcement is difficult. “I doubt we’ll ever be able to know everything about all the activities in Second Life,” she said.

Speakeasy owners like Miss C. aren’t worried. She doesn’t advertise, and doesn’t think any of her customers would turn her in.

“No real player wants to be a snitch,” she said.


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