If you have been following virtual worlds for a while, you probably remember when the FBI raided several casinos that were operating out of Second Life in an effort to get around laws that banned internet-based gambling. If you don’t, here’s a link to refresh your memory. Not that you may need to remember it for very long because Congress appears to be on the verge of repealing its ban on online gaming (in the traditional sense of the word, for once) in the very near future http://nyti.ms/boXfW2. This could be a big deal for virtual worlds, as it would create a potentially lucrative source of revenue, not just for the games’ owners but for others involved in the game’s economy. Although the rapid expansion of virtual worlds that was fueled by access to underground casinos is unlikely to resume based on the return of online gambling, it could open the way for other monetization strategies that could allow some new games a quick path to profitability.
We will have to wait and see if the existing brick and mortar casinos don’t lean on Congress to put off the change, as they likely have a lot to lose if the bill passes. We will also have to see what solutions they can come up with to ensure that minors aren’t able to access the gaming sites. So far, the age verification measures in place now are laughably ineffective. Could this be a precursor to a push for a national ID? (see prior articles on this site for a discussion about national IDs and online games).