atari email archive

a collection of messages sent at Atari from 1983 to 1992.

On computerized gambling

The video-game industry is not without ethical standards; in fact, by some, it is regarded as within the domain of "medical electronics."

Jeff Boscole was an ex-Atari employee who frequently sent letters containing his (apparently sometimes 'nutty') views to the media, government, and acquaintances.

This letter sparks discussion among engineers about the ethics of computerized gambling: pervasive today, but just seeing the light of day in the 80's.

Jeff Boscole...there is hope

(1 / 4)

	For those of you who knew Jeff Boscole, you knew what a nut that guy 
could be in his letter writting. For those of you on his "mailing list", 
you need no more proof than to read his 6 letters a week (of some 6 pages 
	For those of you who did not know Jeff, most of his writtings should
be taken lightly, with an open mind and a good sense of humor. In most cases
his letters simply run on and on and usually say very little!

	However, I just received a letter (ANOTHER!!!!) from Jeff written to
the Washington State Lottery Commision regarding computer gambling! If you
received your own copy, you may stop reading now. If you did not... I thought
a number of you might just like to see this one. Not bad and all on one piece
of paper:

Dear Commisioners:

I worked for several years as a professional video-game designer
at Atari, Inc., and I'd like to register sentiment regarding the
"newly operational" computer gambling system, curiously concidental
with WPPSS #2 fire up.

The video-game industry is not without ethical standards; in fact,
by some, it is regarded as within the domain of "medical electronics."
As game designers, we were carefully instructed to conform to rather
severe standards of discipline. One of these stiff regulations
concerned this area of "computer gambling" as our video-games could
not be sold in many states across the nation if the game in any way
could be construed as a gambling device.  You will notice, for
example, that no game offers "bonus games" as a reward for playing
proficiency; we could merely offer "bonus lives" or "bonus time".

There is another reason for these stringent gambling prohibitions.
Within the programming profession there is an unwritten code of ethics
derived in part from our attitudes about electronics and computer
science.  We feel that the nature of the computer itself is antithetical
to the concept of gambling, and to promote this confustion within
the public mind may become contra-indicative to the interests of
justice and education.  Philosophically, that arrangement destroys
some fundamental cybernetic relationships by mixing up the sacred
with the profane.  Of course computers can produce pseudo-random
numbers, however, there are many of us who, very frankly, do not
want to see machines used for any gambling purposes, or to receive
any such approval and authorization from the state.  Also, we feel
that any centralized processing arrangement incorrectly pprtrays the
essence of computer science, somewhat analogous to the fundamental
statements of economics which also disallow and centralization of
economic theory.  I am acquainted with the accounts of numerous cases
within the courts in various scattered locations currently disputing
the issue of gambling at remote terminals within literary discussions
pertinent to our contemporary industry.  As we believe computer
gambling is a perversion of the design architecture, we do not support
it, and those court cases may very likely find computer gambling

Many other more suitable methods are available for exposing
public consciousness to the awesome power of a computer.  Also,
we feel that some of the fun is subtracted from gambling by
having a machine automate the gambling process.  Along these
lines, I an aware, for example, that some brokerage houses tried
computer-regression forecasting on Wall Street and utilized some
artificial-intelligence automated trabsaction routines.  Since
then, I understand that many of these former computer-linkups
have been pulled off-line, as the stock brokers found their own
trading processes more adequate and perhaps more reliable.

Also, there is a danger that computer gambling might instill a
psychic disestablishmentarianism which could very easily lead to
social disestablishmentarianism and the annihilation of our legal

					  Jeff Boscole

(this was cc to a large list, including 2 TV stations)

	Personally, I think Jeff did a great job here. There may indeed
be hope for him in the everyday world after all!!

Boscole & gambling--I don't get it

(2 / 4)

   I would like to know what percentage of the Coin-op designers agree with 
Jeff Boscole's views about computerized gambling. I have only recently come 
into Coin-op so I am hardly an expert. Nevertheless, it seems to me that 
an electronic gambling machine that is designed to be marketed only in 
areas that gambling is legal should be vastly more fun than current slot 
machines (and head & shoulders above the electronic poker and black jack 
games). I would think that this would translate into vast sums of money.
   Perhaps this opinion shows that my moral fiber is loose weave or perhaps 
gambling isn't really that profitable. Either way, I hope that someone more 
experienced in Coin-op games will reply and set me straight.


Video Gaming

(3 / 4)

I doubt that my moral fibre is more (or less) tight than
the rest of those on this Junk-line, but while I have no
MORAL objection to video gaming, I do have a practical
one, to whit: We have enough trouble with River-City
blue-noses without actually getting in bed with those who
tend to control gambling in this country. One scandal,
even if it did not directly include our machines, could
be the foundation for outlawing video games in a lot of
counties, or states. This could result in far more loss
of revenue than we got in the first place from our gaming
machines. Also, Bally virtually owns the gaming machine
business, and are not nice people to mess (e.g. compete)

Games of skill vs. games of chance

(4 / 4)

	On the subject of skill games vs. games of chance and ignoring
(for the moment) who controls the gambling industry in this
country, I find it more objectionable to waste money on a game (video or
otherwise) that is based soley on luck (ie. slot machines, roullette, etc.)
than to waste money on a game that involves skill.
	The payoff on a game based only on random events is completely
pre-determined before you ever put money in it.  The house determines its
cut and pre-sets its machines to give payoffs accordingly.  Anyone who
plays a game such as this will ALWAYS lose in the long run.  In addition,
there is no payoff to the player other than money and the emotional rush
of winning it (IF you win any).
	The payoff on a game that includes skill as well as luck can still
be pre-adjusted to provide a desired house percentage, but unlike the
completely random game, the payoffs go to those who have mastered the skill.
Also, even if money is not returned, the player still receives a payoff in
the form of personal satisfaction when he increases his skill level.
However, someone who plays such a game MAY win in the long run.  For the
game of blackjack, these people are known as card counters and once
identified by a gaming house are usually told not to return...
	This brings up one of many problems with games of skill that
include monetary payoffs (ie. that those who have mastered the skill are
no longer permitted to participate).  This problem does not arise in
the case of non-monetary payoffs (such as regular video games) in that
by giving extra time or extra lives (or even extra games), only the
amount of game play is extended and even the most rigourous player will
eventually drop from exhaustion.
	Another problem exhibits itself if the game is a multi-player
skill oriented game with monetary payoffs.  As an example, consider a
multi-player space war type game where you win money by eliminating other
players and receiving what they have won so far.  The house percentage
could be falling into the sun.  What do you suppose would happen out in
the parking lot if you overheard the guy in the next console scream "I just
got a ship worth $10,000!" and you had just been about to return that
much to your home base before some turkey blew you out of the sky...
	I feel that the attraction of a skill based game with some sort
of payoff is greater than a random event based game.  Unfortunately, I
dislike most of the side effects which would also be introduced with
such a game.  (The regulatory agencies of the gaming industry have a
pretty tough time with just random based games!)

	I've rambled on long enough as it is...


P.S.  The computer is only another tool and the fact that it is used in
the process of gambling is irrelevent.  Gambling has existed far longer
than the computer.  The use of computers to disguise gambling and present
it as merely entertainment is something entirely different, however.
Message 1 of 4

Mar 12, 1984