Hello and welcome to WebCetera! Each a week, I'll be bringing you computer news and views. I am not afraid to share my opinions. I'm also am not above retracting them when proven wrong. And I love topic suggestions. For contact information, see the editor's note at the end of this column.
How often do you take time to check out the sidebar to the left of the Source main page? All those links are live and take you to exciting and useful data. My Links of the Week are Commentary and Arts/Entertainment. Click to the left and give them a visit.
Elsewhere on the local Internet scene, www.stcroixheritagetrail.com plots a tour of St. Croix. This is a great concept for local web sites, and I'd like to see more sites like this one. And hullbay.com gets an honorable mention by proving that it doesn't take much to put up a site.
I'd love to report news about our three-quarter-million-dollar official Tourism Department site at www.usvitourism.vi, but it remains an unchanged dud. (For my initial review, see "Why Tourism site merits an 'F' many times over" in the Commentary/Op-Ed section.)
Note to Tourism: Please at least correct the many errors on your site.
In the news
Internet gaming is now legal in the USVI! Whoops! No, it's not. There is still some question about federal law. When and if these federal law issues are cleared up, we won't be first to allow Internet gaming under the U.S. flag, anyway. But what the heck, let's give our Casino Control Commission folks another million or so to think about it.
Here's how Internet gaming works. A player uses a secure funding source (usually a credit card) to purchase credit toward a "game of chance," then usually loses the investment. If the player does win, the reward goes back to the original fund source — the credit card or whatever.
The physical location of the player and of the "casino" server can be anywhere that's connected to the Net. As long as the money is good, neither party cares where the other is. Why should the folks who already make the big money view us as a good place to build new infrastructure?
My prediction is that Internet gaming will have basically no positive fiscal impact for us Virgins. By the way, this is a perfect vehicle for money laundering. If it gets big here, expect the feds to come looking.
"Video lottery," however, is a worse pistarckle. The governor has twice in the space of four months rebuffed the Senate's seeming determination to bring it to the Virgin Islands — as if we had the need of any additional pistarckles. But there's always the (remote) possibility of a veto override.
Terminology aside, video lottery terminals essentially are slot machines. Here's how they work: Local establishments install machines that resemble video game systems, where gamblers can purchase credit (often with cash) toward a game of "chance" where the odds are in favor of the house, such as poker. The host establishment usually collects the cash and pays off any gambler winnings. The host also gets a cut of earnings, making it sort of a mini-casino. No wonder the Divi operation put its expansion plans on hold over this. There is no reason to associate the word "lottery" with this scenario. Win or lose, most such transactions would not be recorded.
There is a lot of money involved in video lottery operations. Unfortunately, the source of most of the money in the Virgin Islands would be locals, while its destination would be elsewhere. If our government really thinks video gaming is a good idea, then we should own the machines, just as we do the local street-ticket lottery. Such government ownership exists elsewhere.
Editor's note: Charles Balch has taught computer information systems courses at the University of the Virgin Islands for more than 10 years. Send questions and comments to him at email@example.com.