Can You Gamble in Space? What Are The Rules For Astronauts?
There are various places that have played host to gambling outside of traditional sports betting establishments, bingo halls and casinos. Humans have become very creative with ways of getting around land-based laws and regulations. Years ago, river boats and ships were introduced as a way of people having the opportunity to gamble. Because they weren’t on land that was regulated by specific laws, they could provide such services easily. And people would frequently access these vessels so as to engage in their favourite betting opportunities.
Steamboats played a major role in the 19th century, when the Mississippi River was under development. These allowed passengers to be transported in large quantities up and down the river. And gambling took many forms on these boats. Multiple cities across the state passed legislation that stopped gambling houses from being able to operate within. And this pushed the people (and the card sharps) onboard the riverboats.
And while those riverboats remain in operation today in various locations, what about the future of gambling? Has anyone ever thought of introducing gambling in space? It seems like something exceptionally sci-fi like, with television series like The Expanse and others giving an insight into how casinos on Mars or the moons of different planets would work. Would it really be possible for such to happen, though? Is gambling in space the future of the industry?
Sports Betting Has Already Happened in Space
It may be strange to think about, but we’re closer than you may imagine to space gambling. In fact, a sports bet has already been placed in space!
On September 16, 2021 the very first sports wagers were placed from space on the NFL. Jared Issacman, commander of the Inspiration4 Civilian Space Shuttle, was the commercial astronaut who placed that very first sports wager from beyond the Earth’s atmosphere. Isaacman, who is also an American billionaire businessman and pilot, was commanding the SpaceX civilian shuttle on a mission that he himself paid for. While the craft was on its journey orbiting the Earth, Isaacman connected with the BetMGM sportsbook in Las Vegas via his proxy, Darren Rovell of The Action Network.
Isaacman chose to place a $4,000 bet on the Washington Football Team versus New York Giants, which was followed up by a futures bet of the same amount that the Philadelphia Eagles will win the Super Bowl. Naturally, that call was pre-arranged before the mission of the Inspiration4 began, but that has little impact on the unique nature and notoriety of the wagers themselves.
The astronaut said that he would donate any winnings from the wagers to St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital, with both BetMGM and SpaceX also donating $25,000 each.
“History was made today. I’ve been in the business for 35 years, and we never even took bets from outside the state of Nevada until four years ago”, said BetMGM Director of Trading, Jeff Stoneback. “Now, BetMGM is taking bets from the entire galaxy. It’s a great moment and an even greater cause, supporting St. Jude”.
While it is still too early to determine whether or not the Eagles will manage to secure a Super Bowl win for Isaacman, especially considering that they lost to the San Francisco 49ers the Sunday after his bet was placed. And they remain in the lower half of the rankings where odds are concerned, too. Many platforms are leaning towards a victory for the Kansas City Chiefs – but even they lost their game on the same day to the Baltimore Ravens. So, the season remains very much an open entity for the time being.
However, Isaacman’s initial $4,000 bet on the Over/Under of the game between Washington and New York paid off. With odds of -110 on the Over, Isaacman took home $3,636.35 as well as his initial $4,000 wager. Further to this, the astronaut said that he intends to donate $100 million of his won money to the children’s research hospital.
Of course, placing a bet from an orbiting civilian craft is a different scenario when compared with placing bets from the moon or from Mars etc.
The Potential for Space Tourism Going Forward
There is so much potential where space is concerned, and it is this that has led to NASA and other bodies continuing their exploration and research of the vast blackness. Things have come so far that space tourism is now actually considered to be an entity. Soon enough, people will be able to abandon the standard plan of travelling to the sunny beaches of the Caribbean or the historical ruins of Athens and instead journey into the realms of space.
Space tourism is, effectively, human space travel for recreational purposes. Different types of space travel for tourism purposes are already available, including orbital, suborbital and lunar space. And work continues on the creation of suborbital tourism vehicles, with such companies as Blue Origin and Virgin Galactic focusing efforts on such.
Civilian travel into space is not specifically something very recent, though. Between 2001 and 2009, seven space tourists participated in eight space flights aboard a Russian Soyuz spacecraft, all of which headed to the International Space Station (ISS). Some space tourists have even signed into contracts with third parties allowing them to conduct a variety of research activities while in orbit. While Russia halted orbital space travel for civilians in 2019 due to the increase in the crew working on the ISS, this has not stopped work taking place to take tourists into space in the future.
In 2019, NASA announced that it intended to start allowing private astronauts to go to the ISS by 2020. This, it said would happen via the SpaceX Crew Dragon and the Boeing Starliner, with costs for this standing at $35,000 per astronaut per day.
Of course, it’s one thing going to the ISS with tourists, but what about travelling to the Moon and beyond?
Several ongoing projects are in the works for tourism beyond Earth’s orbit. In 2017, Elon Musk made the announcement that his company SpaceX had received substantial deposits from two individuals for a Moon loop flight with a free return trajectory. By September 2018, Musk revealed that the passenger on that trip would be Japanese billionaire and art collector Yusaku Maezawa. The initial plan was for Maezawa to take between six and eight artists into space with him as inspiration for them to create new pieces. Yet in March 2021, Maezawa opened this up to members of the public as well.
Musk has also stated that his Starship will be ready for unpiloted journeys to Mars in 2022 before a crewed flight occurs in 2024.
Meanwhile, Space Adventures Limited has announced that its focus is on Deep Space Expedition Alpha (DSE-Alpha), which is supposed to be a circumlunar mission to the Moon. The price per passenger for this is advertised as being $100,000,000. However, nothing has taken place as of yet, and timeframe of between 2023 to 2043 has been marked as the period when this is likely to occur within.
The Likelihood of Gambling in Space
Let’s say that by 2050, regular citizens of Earth have been able to board a passenger ship to the Moon and potentially to Mars. What is the next step? Well, there is little doubt that many people will be looking towards a future where civilisation can live on different planets and their moons.
Granted, gravity is going to be the main thing to overcome on these astral bodies. Earth has its own gravity, which keeps everyone and everything on the ground. Gravity is much lower on the Moon (17% earth gravity), Mars (37.5% earth gravity) and so on. Could it be possible that a company could design and create a machine that deals with this, though?
Taking a look at a series like the aforementioned The Expanse, something known as anti-gravity boots are utilised when visiting planets or moons that don’t have their own centre of gravity. It’s not beyond the boundaries of technology to potentially create something like this. This would allow the construction of buildings, pathways and so on at these locations in a much easier way.
This doesn’t help when it comes to playing games like roulette or blackjack, though, does it? Because roulette wheels have balls and there are chips for gambling with or cards to be dealt in blackjack, for example. Despite a blackjack table being able to be pinned down and the dealer and players being able to use potential anti-gravity boots, any cards dealt out would float about uncontrollably.
In fact, we may see entirely new real-money games in space that you couldn’t play on earth. Possibly a game where you have to float a ball onto a wall with holes in it each with different prizes (a bit like a fair ground game in space). There are a lot of options to come up with new inventive gambling games in space that don’t have to rely on existing games. In this case not even the sky is the limit.
The other issue that comes from being in space is the lack of oxygen. Humans and animals need air to breathe, which is not present in space. And if you’re a fan of sci-fi series or films, then you will likely have seen that any humans residing in space or on planetary cities will usually have machines in place to insert oxygen into their living quarters, thereby making it habitable. Now, this would not be something easy to do. The design and creation of such is one thing, but then making enough of them before transporting them into space and setting them up is quite another. The only alternative would be for space tourists going to casinos on the moon or Mars to constantly wear astronaut suits while out of their passenger ship.
There are many things to consider when it comes to setting up casinos and sports betting parlours in space, just as there is with other things when it comes to space. Gambling is not something that can be considered a necessity for anyone travelling to space, so even though it is likely that it will become possible, it is likely to be one of the last things to be introduced. Space tourism covers such a huge sphere that many things would likely be given priority over the possibility of engaging in space gambling.
Technicalities and Rules
Should a space casino be set up, then there would need to be serious thought put into what games would be provided and how. Potentially, a space casino would be able to introduce its own range of games that wouldn’t be accessible on Earth. After all, what would be the point of adapting Earth’s games to suit space if there are new options to create that are already suitable for space?
Yet, how would gambling in space be regulated? Nobody owns it. Space is so vast that it cannot be said “this part belongs to the USA and that part over there is Russia’s and we’re floating in Germany’s zone”, for example. The likelihood is that there would need to be a set of laws and rules thought up for the entirety of space. Who would create these is up in the air, but it would likely need to be an astronomical body, such as NASA. Of course, their focus has little to do with gambling legislation, so it is likely that a new branch of the main organisation would need to be created that deals specifically with gambling.
And potentially the game designs would come under that same branch. It could be an organisation that deals with laws and legislation in space, featuring members from various countries, who determine the regulations to be put in place, and then also employ the game designers, constructors, software developers and so on. It promotes such a wide area of thinking because so much is already connected with the gambling world here on Earth, but it just expands even more when you think of the possibilities of betting in space. There is just a lot more to consider and a lot of research and development would need to be done where games are concerned.
One thing is for certain; traditional games like roulette, baccarat and so on would need a total redesign to fit in with being made available on the Moon, for example. That much is true, even if partial gravity were present. It definitely opens the whole idea up to so many possibilities and alternatives. Would you want to travel into space as a tourist to visit a Moon-based casino establishment?