What constitutes gambling? For most states in the United States, gambling is defined as taking a bet of any kind (with or without wagers) in order to win money. Gambling can take many forms. It can be purely mechanical, where you place bets according to a pre-determined system and the results are revealed the instant the result is known. Or it can involve more human interaction, where the stakes you put up depend on what you expect to get back when you win.
There are many types of gambling. Raffles, live casinos, lotteries, sports betting, horse racing, etc. can all be classed as gambling, but there are some types that are, perhaps, less well known: Wire Act, Paspa, Betting Act, Moby Dick. For simplicity’s sake, we’ll stick to what we know: Wire Act.
In the US, Wire Act defines “any person who conducts a gambling transaction or activity in the presence of one or more persons.” Although this includes people who place bets or take wagers over the internet, this is not the only way people set up “houses” or “roving gaming establishments”. Some other examples are bars and restaurants, which also set up “residentships” where customers are given the right to gamble at the bar or restaurant. So, technically, both state law and federal gambling statutes cover all Gambling Venues.
The second issue is skill-based and its regulation. Gambling and other illegal gambling are illegal because it takes skills and tactics that any of us could use. Gambling involves chance, skill, and familiarity with the game or cards in hand. If anyone were to use any of those skills in an attempt to win, then that would count as gambling under the definition provided by the Wire Act. So, if you tell a friend you’ve been playing video games for days and you’ve managed to win every time, chances are you aren’t cheating – you just might be using some skill.
In addition, another argument that players have against “gambling” and against “virtual items” is that it makes players lazy. Some players take pride in winning little amounts of virtual items and think the act of gambling encourages laziness. This is not necessarily true. If someone wants to be smart, he or she can play free games on online casinos that require no real money.
Finally, there is a difference between what constitutes gambling and what constitutes a hobby. Many states have created regulatory bodies that help define the difference. In most states, if a person is caught gambling illegally, he or she can be forced to pay a fine, or worse, face jail time. On the other hand, if a person is collecting nickel coins for a specific hobby, such as coin collecting, then that collector is not engaging in gambling. And because the value of these coins doesn’t change, they cannot be considered a form of gambling-even if people collect them for that reason.
So if the debate over what constitutes gambling and what forms of amusements are not entirely clear, what about the game mechanics of the machines? It has been argued that video games are gambling because they require players to use real money to make bets or to purchase cards or tickets. While this may seem like a semantic issue, the argument is actually more important than you might think. After all, why should the machines be regulated by law? Why would state and local governments want to control what players could and couldn’t do with regards to video games?
As video games continue to become more popular, there will be an increasing need for government intervention. The emergence of virtual items such as gambling and sports betting sites will only drive the game industry even further away from the restrictions imposed by state and local governments. Instead of waiting for government intervention, many gamers will simply choose to patronize independent websites that provide them with a great gaming experience. In the end, both hardcore and casual gamers will be better served-and their interests will be better protected-if they opt for an independent video game industry that thrives without government intervention.