Linden Lab's latest blog post highlighting recent updates to Second Life includes the addition of Gaming Island, "a new Linden Lab region dedicated to educating Residents about skill games in Second Life." The term refers to any game "whose outcome is determined by skill and is not contingent, in whole or in material part, upon chance; requires or permits the payment of Linden Dollars to play; provides a payout in Linden Dollars; and is legally authorized by applicable United States and international law." That's a narrowly defined category, but a lucrative one. I made a quick visit to Gaming Island (map link and info here), and while the games might not be gambling in the strict legal sense, they do seem pretty casino-like.
That seems to be the sweet spot Linden Lab is aiming for -- games that don't fit the legal definition of gambling but still appeal to that user base. About 10 years ago, Second Life took a tremendous hit in usage when actual gambling games were banned from the virtual world. If Linden Lab can succeed in threading this needle, and adequately promote it, we could see a meaningful influx of new players.
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