07 May 2011

Strange changes in the Gambling Law

Virginia has put together all its legal changes and, as per usual, there's always one or two which don't make a lot of sense to me. The definition of illegal gambling has been changed as follows:
a. For the purposes of this subdivision and notwithstanding any provision in this section to the contrary, the making, placing, or receipt of any bet or wager of money or other thing of value shall include the purchase of a product, Internet access, or other thing, which purchase credits the purchaser with free points or other measurable units that may be (i) risked by the purchaser for an opportunity to win additional points or other measurable units that are redeemable by the purchaser for money at the location where the product was purchased or (ii) redeemed by the purchaser for money, and but for the free points or other measurable units, with regard to clauses (i) and (ii), the purchase of the product, Internet access, or other thing (a) would be of insufficient value in and of itself to justify the purchase or (b) is merely incidental to the chance to win money.
Obviously, this is done in an attempt to make internet gambling illegal. First, it makes the common sense correction of deleting the part which makes gambling only illegal if done at a physical location. The weird part is where it talks about purchasing iternet access of insufficient value to justify its purchase or incidental to the chance to win. I understand that they are trying to shut down internet gambling, but no one is overpaying for internet access as part of a coverup for gambling. Still, I think that the inclusion of "or other things" covers what they were trying to get to because the transfer of funds to an internet site for "credits" (or whatever a site calls them), which are basically worthless except for their value in gambling, seems to fall within that language.

I wish they were somewhat more precise in their language. "Other things" does leave open an argument that electronic credits are not things, but conceptualizations of potentialities; I'm sure those of you out there who are defense attorneys will find a simpler way to say that to a judge. They are not things because they have no physical embodiments outside of the ever-shifting electrons in any electronic brain system (that's a computer for those of you who have never read old science fiction).

On the other hand, "thing" is a broad catch-all word in English. It clearly does not have to denote a physical item. We've all seen the television show with the detective saying, "Here's the thing, I don't believe you." In that example, "thing" is referring to a belief or state of mind, not a physical item. As well, we'd all understand if Steve Jobs were on a stage talking about the iPhone 6 and he said something like ". . . and our support website for the phone is a thing unto itself." Therefore, a website, and by inference other things on the web, is a thing.

[addendum] After putting some thought into it, I think what the General Assembly meant by "internet access" is probably access to a particular website. The purpose is probably to keep people from paying $5,000 for a week's access to "Texas Hold'em Heaven." As such, the language used fails because "internet access" does not cannote, in normal usage, the access of a single site, but the access of the internet in its entirety. However, I think that "other things" also covers site access.

1 comment:

Donald said...

I think this is not aimed at traditional internet gambling (e.g., Poker Stars, etc.), but is instead an effort to shut down (or preclude from opening) "internet cafes" (sometimes called "internet sweepstakes cafes") that are really just poorly disguised casinos.

The NY Time ran a piece on how efforts to regulate them in Florida recently:


And Ohio is working on regulating/closing them, too: