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Key word being "knowledge".

Seems like you are free to believe in any fantasy about you having an edge over the house, except when that belief happens to be true. The mere thought of having a streak of luck would make winning illegal. If thoughtcrimes were animals, this would be a cute little kitty.




> Seems like you are free to believe in any fantasy about you having an edge over the house, except when that belief happens to be true.

This is a pretty common pattern in "intent" crimes. As a simple example: attempted murder requires a potentially-effective plan. Shooting at someone and missing is attempted murder, burning a voodoo doll of them is not - no matter how sincerely you expect it to work.

It does produce an odd situation where stupidity becomes a legal defense, but the basis for it is pretty understandable. It's not criminalizing being right, it's decriminalizing being wrong, presumably because it's too hard to define the boundaries of whether something useless was done with real intent.


I would argue that burning a voodoo doll should at least count for intent to harm.

Lets say I am completely mistaken about how chemistry works and I think that adding salt to wine will somehow make it a deadly cocktail. With intent to kill you I make such a concoction and serve it to you.

In that case I should still be able to be punished under the law.


1991 article by David D. Friedman about this topic: http://digitalcommons.law.scu.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?articl...


The article assumes rational behavior with regard to everything except which methods of committing crimes are possible and concludes that punishing impossible attempts creates a rational disincentive to all attempts.

It's right in a game-theory sense, but not a practical one. Proving intent to a jury is based on circumstantial evidence. Shooting a gun at someone is strong evidence of intent to murder because it is widely known that guns are lethal. Countering the weight of that evidence would require very convincing evidence that the shooter did not believe his actions would be lethal. Proving that someone believed burning a voodoo doll would be lethal would be very difficult since it is widely known that burning voodoo dolls is not lethal. Even apparent evidence that the voodoo practitioner had a genuine belief is easily played off as an act, and in criminal law, the benefit of the doubt goes to the defendant.

There's also the matter of people having mistaken beliefs about the probability of punishment.


So legally, I know the "salt in wine" example doesn't count as attempted murder, at least in states that require action towards the murder. Some states have much lower bars where you don't have to try a murder and could merely buy supplies and write out a plan, but even then I don't think guaranteed-to-fail plans count.

It does seem like the sort of thing that ought to be illegal somehow, but I'd need an actual expert's input on what charges they would seek for that.


The mere thought of having a streak of luck would make winning illegal.

Where I live, many bars have 8 line slot machines that are ostensibly "For Amusement Only" but they pay out when people win (and if they know you).

If you win too much, you'll be banned from playing.


Cutting off people who win too much seems fair; charging them with a crime does not. Correctly estimating when the odds are more favorable doesn't seem like cheating to me.


I have been banned from playing at a few establishments.

Just knowing when to raise your bet does a lot to tip the odds in your favor.


And that seems fair, in the same way that it's fair for a store to apply undisclosed quantity limits to a customer who figures out how to combine freely-available coupons to make all their merchandise free.

I actually did something like that once. A store I visited put a link to a survey on its receipt with an offer of $10 off any one item on completion. I completed the survey on my phone, which displayed a barcode they could scan and selected a sub-$10 item. The receipt for my free item had a link to a survey....

I limited myself to a few items I actually had a use for. They would have been well within their rights to cut me off after a while, but certainly not to have me charged with a crime.




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