Hundreds of casinos offering poker, slot machines and blackjack can easily be found in Second Life.While it is difficult to estimate the total size of the gambling economy in there, the three largest poker casinos are earning modest profits of $1500 each per month, according to casino owners and people familiar with the industry.Most lawyers agree that placing bets with Linden dollars probably 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 any crackdown, is uncertain.Second Life is a popular online virtual world with millions of registered users and its own economy and currency, known as the Linden dollar, which can be exchanged for real US dollars.Yoon said the company was seeking guidance on virtual gambling activity in Second Life but had not yet received clear rules from US authorities.The FBI and the US Attorney’s Office for Northern California declined to comment.The surge in Second Life gambling coincides with a crackdown in the real world by the US government, which has arrested executives from offshore gambling websites.
FBI investigators have visited Second Life’s internet casinos at the invitation of the virtual world’s creator Linden Lab, but the US government has not yet decided on the legality of virtual gambling.
“We have invited the FBI several times to take a look around in Second Life and raise any concerns they would like, and we know of at least one instance that federal agents did look around in a virtual casino,” said Ginsu Yoon, Linden Lab’s vice president for business affairs.
The latter law, passed last year, takes aim at credit card companies and other electronic funds transfers that facilitate internet gambling.
“What they did was go after the processors, and made it a crime to process payments that relate to online gambling sites.
“That’s the risk; we have a set of unknowns and we don’t know how they’re going to play out,” said Brent Britton, an attorney specialising in emergent technology at the law firm Squire, Sanders & Dempsey in Tampa, Florida.Britton said Linden Lab could potentially face criminal charges under the 1970 Illegal Gambling Business Act or the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act.