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FBI Examines Second Life Casinos 104

Posted by Zonk
from the checking-under-the-hood dept.
UnanimousCoward writes "Yahoo! is running an article reporting that Second Life has invited the FBI to tour their casinos. Under the theory that they may have some objections, Linden wanted to make sure that everything was on the up and up. The FBI has apparently taken them up on the offer, but will not comment on their conclusion. With the recent US crackdown on Internet gambling, visits to Second Life casinos have increased (using Linden dollars that can be exchanged for real currency). 'Most lawyers agree that placing bets with Linden dollars likely violates US anti-gambling statutes, which cover circumstances in which something of value is wagered. But the degree of Linden Lab's responsibility, and the likelihood of a any crackdown, is uncertain.'"
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FBI Examines Second Life Casinos

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  • I think I could win against a punch of 7 foot tall wieners at the poker table.
  • by nurb432 (527695) on Wednesday April 04, 2007 @05:09PM (#18611857) Homepage Journal
    What the hell is going on with this nonsense? Don't we have better things to do with our tax dollars, like umm protecting our borders or preventing another local attack?

    geesh.
    • Well letting people in the usa get a way with a fixed casino game is ok what if they took your money with there being no way for you to win it back.
      • Re: (Score:1, Troll)

        by nurb432 (527695)
        If you gamble, you risk losing all your money by the very definition.

        If you are stupid enough to do it, you deserve to have it taken away.
        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          It's one thing if you can win but when it is fixed so that you can't then it is not gambling.
          • by cbreaker (561297)
            Indeed - at that point it's just a scam. You can't really apply the whole "if you're stupid enough to gamble.." argument there.
            • You can't really apply the whole "if you're stupid enough to gamble.." argument there.

              Yes you can. Gambling is just a scam anyway - sure, it's a scam that certain people find entertaining. But the maths is always on the side of the house.

              Yes, there are certain games that can be won with a degree of skill. But the vast majority of casino gamblers do not have that skill, and if they do exhibit it, the house will refuse to play with them.

              Does the entertainment value of gambling represent a fair payback for you
              • by cbreaker (561297)
                You fail, again, to realize that the very definition of gambling includes a CHANCE to win. Everyone knows the payouts are low on gambling and lottery tickets, but someone WILL win, and you're playing for your fair chance to win.

                By calling something "gambling" and simply *never* paying out, you're scamming.

                The taxes analogy is just stupid.
    • by drinkypoo (153816) <martin.espinoza@gmail.com> on Wednesday April 04, 2007 @05:18PM (#18612015) Homepage Journal

      What the hell is going on with this nonsense? Don't we have better things to do with our tax dollars, like umm protecting our borders or preventing another local attack?

      This comment is as non-insightful as when someone says "What are you assholes doing working on firefox when linux iptables still has a hole" or whatever.

      Are you proposing that all law enforcement personnel nationwide drop everything they are doing and focus on preventing terrorism?

      • Are you proposing that all law enforcement personnel nationwide drop everything they are doing and focus on preventing terrorism?

        Sure. Not that I think they'd have any much change of success, mind you, but it might occupy them enought to keep them away from things they have no business getting involved in (such as the topic of this article). It'd be nice to see law enforcement focused on defense of life and property for a change instead of victimless "crimes" like illicit drugs and online gambling.

        • victimless "crimes" like illicit drugs and online gambling
          Yes, because everyone knows that drugs and gambling have never caused any harm to anyone.
          • by LordNimon (85072)
            Nice try, Mr. Strawman.

            Lots of things have caused harm to people, and yet they're still legal. Alcohol, driving, guns. Gambling is certainly no worse than any of these!
            • Lots of things have caused harm to people, and yet they're still legal. Alcohol, driving, guns.

              Yes, things that are legal and cause harm may not be "victimless", but they aren't crimes.

              Gambling is certainly no worse than any of these!

              Whether it is worse than any of those things (and, I'd say, its pretty clearly worse in terms of harm:utility ratio than driving, but that's another discussion) is irrelevant to the question of whether it is fairly described as a "victimless crime."

              That it is not "worse" than

              • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

                by Mr2001 (90979)

                That it is not "worse" than other things which may have victims but are not crimes does not establish that it is a victimless crime. It may be useful as part of an argument that it, despite not being victimless, ought not to be a crime, but you'd need more than you've presented to make that argument.

                Typically, for the purposes of deciding whether an act is a "victimless crime", we ignore the person committing the act, on the principle that the kind of "victims" we're concerned about are unwilling, innocent victims.

                In that context it's easy to see that gambling is indeed victimless. If I go to a casino and play a hand of blackjack, who's the victim? Not me; I committed the act with full knowledge of the possible consequences and willingly accepted them. Not the casino; they're playing willingly, under

                • Typically, for the purposes of deciding whether an act is a "victimless crime", we ignore the person committing the act, on the principle that the kind of "victims" we're concerned about are unwilling, innocent victims.

                  In that context it's easy to see that gambling is indeed victimless. If I go to a casino and play a hand of blackjack, who's the victim? Not me; I committed the act with full knowledge of the possible consequences and willingly accepted them.

                  If you are a compulsive gambler, its arguable wheth

                  • "If you are a compulsive gambler, its arguable whether or not you freely accepted the risks, because its arguable whether you had actual capacity to refrain."

                    So then we are talking about addiction, is there anyone who thinks that incarceration is a better solution that therapy?

                    "and seek thereby to discourage, behavior to which harm to uninvolved third parties frequently"

                    And if we can agree therapy is a better deterrent/solution to addiction than incarceration, then why are we criminalizing gambling, drugs, etc?

                  • by Mr2001 (90979)

                    If you are a compulsive gambler, its arguable whether or not you freely accepted the risks, because its arguable whether you had actual capacity to refrain.

                    Well, you still made the initial choice to start gambling, and you chose not to get help when you recognized you had a problem. You can't walk through a casino without seeing information about Gamblers Anonymous at every turn.

                    There's a concept called the "eggshell skull rule" which basically says that if your actions harm someone, you're responsible even if you couldn't predict the extent of the harm based on what you knew at the time - e.g. if you slap someone in the head, not knowing that his skull is as

                    • by drinkypoo (153816)

                      You can't walk through a casino without seeing information about Gamblers Anonymous at every turn.

                      This is only true in jurisdictions which require it. Otherwise you usually see one or two signs, near the cashier's cage or player's club. Sometimes other signs are sprinkled around, but they are usually small and specifically designed to be visually unstimulating, in opposition to everything else in the building which is engineered (sometimes literally!) to draw the eye.

                      While the issue of whether criminalizi

                    • There's a concept called the "eggshell skull rule" which basically says that if your actions harm someone, you're responsible even if you couldn't predict the extent of the harm based on what you knew at the time - e.g. if you slap someone in the head, not knowing that his skull is as brittle as an eggshell, you're in trouble even though the slap wouldn't have harmed an average person. Now, suppose we extend that a little. If you're prone to compulsive gambling, but you don't know it yet, and you go into a

                    • by Mr2001 (90979)

                      This is only true in jurisdictions which require it. Otherwise you usually see one or two signs, near the cashier's cage or player's club. Sometimes other signs are sprinkled around, but they are usually small and specifically designed to be visually unstimulating, in opposition to everything else in the building which is engineered (sometimes literally!) to draw the eye.

                      Fair enough. I've only gambled in Las Vegas and Washington, so I don't know how it is elsewhere. Still, I don't believe there's anyone who doesn't realize that compulsive gambling is dangerous or wouldn't be able to find help if they cared to, even where the signs aren't as prominent as they are elsewhere.

                    • by drinkypoo (153816)

                      Still, I don't believe there's anyone who doesn't realize that compulsive gambling is dangerous or wouldn't be able to find help if they cared to, even where the signs aren't as prominent as they are elsewhere.

                      Regardless of how many steps you're taking, realizing that you have a problem is only the first step. You then have to go on and do something about it. I know a woman who grew up with a compulsive gambler for a father... Rags, to riches, to rags, to riches, until the family unit broke up, basically.

          • by Mr2001 (90979)
            Correct. They have simply allowed people to harm themselves, which is far less of a law enforcement priority in the minds of reasonable people.
          • Re: (Score:1, Insightful)

            by Anonymous Coward
            Why must we start from the pre-conceived notion that it's the governments job to protect people from themselves? Why is it more important to protect a degenerate gambler from throwing his life away than it is to protect the rights of everyone capable of setting limits for themselves?

            And don't even go there on drugs...the black market for drugs created by their prohibition has ruined far more lives that it has saved. What gives the government the right to prevent someone from putting something in their own b
          • by quanticle (843097)
            I don't know about drugs, but I still don't see why gambling is outlawed in the vast majority of the USA. If I, as a rational adult, want to put some money on a game of chance, I should be able to. You cannot make a comparison between gambling and alcohol/drugs, because losing some money isn't going to physically impair me in any way.

            As for the argument that gambling is used as a front for organized crime, well we already have racketeering and money laundering legislation to address that.
      • by dbitch (553938)
        Well, if it's as bad as Dubya keeps saying it is, yes. If we have to suspend the right of habeus corpus, it's an emergency and they better damn well drop whatever they're doing and fix it. Wait, what's that I hear? It's not an emergency? Tell me why we're involved with a couple of wars again?
      • by nurb432 (527695)
        Did i specifically say terrorism? No. Though i do admit that is part of the modern world, that is not the only threat, and is far down on the food chain of direct effect to our daily lives.

        But yes, all our law enforcement people should be dealing with things that actually mean something. Wasting resources on a GAME is ludicrous.
      • What the hell is going on with this nonsense? Don't we have better things to do with our tax dollars, like umm protecting our borders or preventing another local attack?

        This comment is as non-insightful as when someone says "What are you assholes doing working on firefox when linux iptables still has a hole" or whatever.

        Are you proposing that all law enforcement personnel nationwide drop everything they are doing and focus on preventing terrorism?

        Keep the false dichotomies out of this. Of course he didn't say that. He's just asking why they're bothering with this when there are far greater problems.

    • by StikyPad (445176)
      In other words: Why are we chasing those pink elephants when we could be hunting purple unicorns?!?
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by blahplusplus (757119)
      "its a freaking game!!!"

      Yes but lets not forget that capitalist economy must be protected from threats (i.e. places that suck up money from the economy in which there is a FIXED amount of money).

      The whole "gambling crackdown" is about the integrity of an economy with a fixed money supply, and gambling sites do suck up money and money pools there under the guise of people hoping to get rich, which does have real effects on the economy. The government is a capitalist nazi, in Canada you cannot leave the coun
      • by bnenning (58349)
        The whole "gambling crackdown" is about the integrity of an economy with a fixed money supply, and gambling sites do suck up money and money pools there under the guise of people hoping to get rich

        As opposed to state-run lotteries? Gambling is no more wasteful than any other form of entertainment. At best, that's an argument for allowing and regulating domestic gambling sites. And some games like poker shouldn't even be called "gambling", because over a sufficient time period results are determined more by
      • by suffe (72090)
        +3 Interesting? Come on! What do you people think happens to the money? They put them in a hole in the ground, never to be seen anymore? Not that even that would matter. You could set money on fire and in the end, the economy as such doesn't suffer. There are other drawbacks like a currency shortage if you burn enough, but really.

        The money just changes hands. There is no inherently bad thing about this. The money keeps spinning around in the economic system and gets spent/invested just like anything else. O
        • No, you come on... market integrity is a must... witness:

          "For example, statutory and regulatory requirements designed to detect and deter fraud and cheating of market participants, such as those relating to exchange audit trails, competitive trading and open pricing, would cease to exist. Many of the customer protections currently in place were added by Congress in 1992 after the 1989 FBI-CFTC investigation revealed the existence of widespread cheating of customers -- including large institutional customers
    • by FleaPlus (6935)
      > its a freaking game!!!

      Are you talking about real-life casinos, Second Life casinos, or both?

      Personally, I think it's absurd for gaming in either physical casinos or virtual casinos to be illegal.
    • Yes indeed, let's put every tax dollar toward protecting our borders. That way, we know we'll be safe until the roads deteriorate to nothing due to lack of funding.

      geesh.
    • i would be very suprised if the FBI CIA NSA and a few other TLAs didn't have a few folks in second life

      (imagine the surprise when you find out that the royal blue "fox" you have been chatting with/ bragging about your Skillz just happens to be
      1 a couple or so years older than you thought
      2 actually is female
      3 carries a badge in RW
    • by jonwil (467024)
      Basicly, because you can convert US$ to L$, gamble at a second life casino,potentially win L$ and convert back to US$, there are questions about whether it falls under US anti-internet-gambling laws. Linden Labs is just trying to cover all the bases and clearly demonstrate that they are willing to cooperate with the FBI on this.
    • Preventing one otherwise unmonitored avenue of say, money laundering (just as an example).
  • ...get your gambling in now before it (possibly) gets shut down.
  • Wow! (Score:5, Funny)

    by LordPhantom (763327) on Wednesday April 04, 2007 @05:11PM (#18611889)
    I wonder what their avatars look like.......

    Agent Smith: Tell me, Mr. Anderson... what good is a phone call... if you're unable to speak?
  • by brunascle (994197) on Wednesday April 04, 2007 @05:14PM (#18611953)
    by "examine", do they mean the FBI are actually going to enter the game? i always found that weird, when admin-types have to do their duty from within the game.

    one example: i read about a guy in an MMO who got his hands on a character that was accidentally released. he claimed the admins were trying to take it back... but they couldnt "find it". couldnt find it? they own the friggin servers. that should be as simple as a database query, or something like that.
    • No, not really. After being invoved with the "game" long enough, they can really see whats happening by watching the raw data scroll across the screen.

      (oh, come on - you know somebody would give you a smart-ass answer like that)
    • Games may keep things like that in RAM, not in a database. It's not so easy to query a block of memory...
      • by daranz (914716)
        A MMOG (btw, my pet peeve: it's MMOG not MMO) server is most likely not going to keep the data of all the online characters in RAM. The characters are persistent, with lots of data like inventories and stats carried over from session to session, so it'd be logical to store all that stuff in a db somewhere (with backups, due to the risk of facing hordes of rabid fans in case of a failure). Even if some character data is retained in RAM, somewhere there is going to be a database with login details, and charac
    • by jjgm (663044)
      Is *is* as simple as a database query, but generally the Game Masters in a MMO would not have the ability to issue arbitrary queries to the game servers / engines.

      Nonetheless it is pretty normal for them to be able to instantly jump to the location of a named character. If it was a problem for an unusual character, that's most likely a bug or game artefact preventing them doing so. Or they didn't know its name.

      That'd all require an escalation to a higher level, perhaps even to a DBA, which depending on the
  • by Jalwin (1082419) on Wednesday April 04, 2007 @05:15PM (#18611963)
    Anyone else sick of seeing so many stories about this game? It only has what, 20k subscribers? Yet it seems I see at least one news article a week about it.
    • by stratjakt (596332)
      I agree.

      In the long run, SL will be remembered as a really lame also-ran MMORPG.

      These arent stories, they're press releases.
      • by Jalwin (1082419)
        I agree, most if not all of Second Life's press comes from the stories like this generated by the media.
    • This isn't simply an article about Second Life, it's an article about the semantics of the words 'money' and 'gamble' that may have consequences for us all in the near future, regardless of the merits of the game itself.
    • by AdamTrace (255409)
      For what it's worth, the SecondLife webpage says it has over 5 million subscribers, with 1.6 million logging in in the last 60 days.

      I don't know if that's an excuse for so many news stories, but your estimation of 20k subscribers was grossly inaccurate.
      • by imsabbel (611519)
        If you realize that 95% of those are bots, or "players" being _paid_ to occupy content providers areas (the 2nd live version of link-networks to boost ranking), it shrinks quite a bit.

        Second live has a huge amount of astroturfing going on. Its also intersting to see how much main-stream media attention they get (and which companies those outlets belong to).
        • If you realize that 95% of those are bots, or "players" being _paid_ to occupy content providers areas (the 2nd live version of link-networks to boost ranking), it shrinks quite a bit.


          Even if your 95% number is accurate, and ignoring that paid players are still live human participants, 5% of 5 million total subscribers is 250,000 and 5% of the 1.6 million recent users is 80,000, either of which still show the earlier 20k claim of total users to be way low.
      • by crossmr (957846)
        that's okay. On slashdot we allow a wide margin of error to still be considered insightful.
    • by ozphx (1061292)
      Yes, I am also sick of SL. Makes me cry everytime I see some story about a corporation having virtual headquarters in it. Considering at a rough estimate 96% of the user created content is furry skins and genitalia (yes I found a wang with a /spoo command), I would suggest the entire gameworld is basically furrys (87%), IBM employees (8%) and other people with no life (5%).

      Oh and people that love trolling. IBM showing people around their center.

      http://www.mancer.org/ibm.jpg [mancer.org] (_definitely not safe for work_)
    • Yes. It's particularly grating as I don't have a (first) life.
    • No, I look for and forward to them. Only one a week? I wish there were daily stories. SL may currently have its problems, but I think it or something like it is the future. It is so much more than a "game". That is the mistake so many people make. It is more like a next gen web browser than anything (it is as revolutionary as Mosaic and will someday be the next Firefox). You can see other peoples creations, chat or remote conference with intereactive white boards, play a multitude of different user c
      • by Raenex (947668)
        I have the whole internet as my virtual playground. I can play tons of different online games, browse from among millions of sites, etc. Why do I need to experience these things with a virtual avatar stuffed into an artificially limited 3d world?
  • Media Whores (Score:5, Insightful)

    by timster (32400) on Wednesday April 04, 2007 @05:20PM (#18612063)
    If you RTFA, it's more like "Second Life creators bragging about how they asked the FBI to look at their casinos". Another non-story about a third-rate MUSH.
  • by voice_of_all_reason (926702) on Wednesday April 04, 2007 @05:22PM (#18612085)
    You know a report is going to breeze across some higher-up's desk, he'll see Bin Laden Dollars and demand to "get those fuckers now"
  • Hot damn, I'm giggling at the prospect of Linden Labs getting right fscked by the FBI over this. The FBI is not exactly world-renown for its sane priorities or sense of proportionality.

    May the big, dumb fist of the federal bureacracy come smashing down on Linden Labs and their crappy chatroom-cum-hype-machine! I hope a hundred lives are shattered by overbearing moralists and revenuers if it saves me from having to read one more breathless article about the wonders of this wanna-be metaverse. (Although that
    • by honkycat (249849)
      No, the FBI and law enforcement in general don't have a great reputation for having a good sense of proportionality. Whether that's a fair reputation, I don't know. However, I have a feeling that if their casinos ARE illegal, their pro-active invitation to the FBI to investigate like this will work very much in their favor. It probably substantially increases the odds that they receive a stern warning to shut down the casinos and submit to another investigation to show that they have done so, rather than
    • Re: (Score:1, Funny)

      by Anonymous Coward
      I think it would be even more hilarious if the FBI's in-game avatars were also assaulted by flying penises.
    • by zippthorne (748122) on Wednesday April 04, 2007 @06:47PM (#18613281) Journal
      This reminds me of a stupid criminal trick

      Operator: 911, please state the emergency
      Crook: Um, yeah, I was just wondering if there might be any warrants out for my arrest
      O: Can I have your name and social or identity theft, please?
      C: J. Bird, xxx-xx-3C08
      O: Please hold
              <dispatches police to location>
      C: You still there?
      O: Please hold
      C: I hear sirens
      O: Please hold
      C: They're all parked around me!
      O: Yes, there is a warrant out for your arrest. Please get on the ground.
      C: <scuffling noises>

      Why would they invite the FBI? If they're really concerned, they should hire a lawyer and then act on the lawyer's advice. Are they based in UK? Perhaps they're not aware of the fifth amendment over here?
      • They'd invite the FBI because it's not they who are breaking the law (if anyone is). The casinos are user-generated content, so it would be the users' problem, not Linden Labs'.
  • by Cylix (55374)
    I have a reason to actually play second life.

    No, I won't be gambling per say....

    In any event, I would like to announce my new "hang out" which has been themed after the movie "Casino Royale."

    Why yes, yes we do have hookers and black jack.
  • by BigHungryJoe (737554) on Wednesday April 04, 2007 @05:25PM (#18612147) Homepage
    With all the absolutely ridiculous actions the FBI is taking, including 'busting' kids for making threats over Xbox Live, I'm starting to think we've got too many federal law enforcement agents.
  • by xxxJonBoyxxx (565205) on Wednesday April 04, 2007 @05:29PM (#18612215)
    Cue voice of Jeff Foxworthy...

    "If you exchange good old fashioned American dollars for Lindens, you might be a moron."
  • by davidwr (791652) on Wednesday April 04, 2007 @06:01PM (#18612667) Homepage Journal
    What will come of online gambling?

    Place your bets place your bets place your bets

    Today's horse race at Slashdot Downs:

    1) No-op - the FBI won't press charges
    2) Squib - the FBI will try to shut it down and fail
    3) Buster - the FBI will try to shut it down and succeed
    4) Angel - the FBI will try to shut it down and before they can act Congress will intervene and save the gamblers
    5) Loudmouth - Congress will try to shut it down and fail
    6) Devil - Congress will shut it down
    • by Hocakes (1084335)
      7) FBI will ask Linden to stop all games of chance, Linden will oblige, then collapse because without gambling, there aren't enough deviants out there to keep the place afloat.
    • The smart money is on Squib. There is so much crap on the racetrack its basically like running through mud. Squib is a mudder! His mother was a mudder!!!
  • I play http://there.com/ [there.com] and we wanted casino items in game to play with, however since you can purchase addition Tbucks (currency) they said it would be illegal and encourage underage gambling.
  • Interesting how your government always steps in when mob profits are at stake. Human rights..not so much, constitutional attacks..not so much, environmental devastation..no not that either. But organized crime profits at risk sure do get them off their ass.
  • I remember someone on one of the SL developer lists pointing out that there is a blackjack program that cheats. It's one that you can get for free, so it is highly likely that someone is using it in their casino -- they may not even know that the game cheats.

    The specific cheat was this: when a player got a face card that gave them 21, the dealer then got *that very same card* as his first card. This clearly gives the advantage to the house. Once the developer pointed it out, it was easy to find in the c

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