Thursday, July 26, 2007

No more casinos in SL

Yikes, this is going to hurt. Yesterday, Linden Labs published a new policy, effectively banning al in-world gambling. SL is awash with casinos and slot machines; they also generate a lot of the in-world economic activity.

But, in a lot of countries, gambling is only legal if organized, or sanctioned by the state; this goes for the US, for Canada, but also for The Netherlands. Apparently, Linden Lab is forced (by an FBI investigation?) to apply these US laws to Second Life.

Adding to this: in recent months, there has been a lot of discussion about another new Linden Lab policy, one that prohibits "broadly offensive and potentially illegal content". This policy was created after news media reported on explicit activities in SL that seemed to involve minors and adults. It was roleplay of course, but one that generated quite a buzz in many countries. Roleplay or not, it didn't seem right to many people, and Linden Lab moved to prohibit these kinds of behaviour and imagery.

Apparently, the furries are under close scrutiny as well: animal shaped avatars, involved in explicit, adult roleplay with human looking avatars: this is bound to violate a lot of laws in a lot of countries as well.

At this moment, there's no telling what effect this will have on SL. It will become more respectable in some, corporate, eyes; it will become definitely more boring in th eyes of those in search of some in world excitement, edgy roleplay or a nice game of cards.

Undoubtedly, many avatars will leave. Some in-world entrepeneurs invested a lot of money in land and buildings, money which they earn back by providing gambling services. These people will have to quit their business, and they will not be refunded. This is going to cost some people a lot of money, real world dollars. In the end, the economy of SL *and* Linden Lab will suffer monetary losses.

This raises an interesting point: Linden Lab can, apparently, change their policies at will, destroying the value of anything you own or have built, just like that. That is worrying, if you plan to invest in SL.

On the other hand, SL will look more respectable to many other people. I know for a fact that certain companies stayed out of SL because they didn't want to be associated with all the gambling and sex that's going on in SL. Maybe these people will reconsider their earlier stance on the issue.

In six months, SL maybe very much over - a vast, digital desert. Or it may recover, and still be an interesting place for businesses and private people alike. We'll have to wait and see.

(edited, fixed some typos. No content was changed).

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