The company behind Counter-Strike: Global Offensive, Valve, has been accused by a player of allowing and facilitating illegal wagering on the game.
There are numerous sites in which players can trade and wager skins, that is in-game items, which are worth substantial amounts of money.
Sites such as CSGO Lounge, CSGO skins, and CSGO Diamonds allow this trading and Valve profits from the skins; whenever they’re sold the company receives 15%.
The developer is somewhat unique in that it allows these virtual items to be transferred over to third party sites such as these and many have made a fortune, and indeed continue to make a living from this. There are numerous streams on Twitch wherein you can watch streamers as they gamble with these skins, some of these are extremely popular and there is no age restriction nor gambling category to be seen.
Whilst the true value of this betting market is difficult to pinpoint a report by Bloomberg from April this year cites a stat which says that ‘more than 3 million people wagered $2.3 billion worth of skins on the outcome of esports matches in 2015.’
Eilers Research meanwhile has stated that the value of skins betting in 2016 is closer to $5bn (£3.4bn).
The lawsuit, which has been filed on behalf of Michael John McLeod, states that Valve and third party sites CSGO Diamonds, CSGO Lounge and OPSKins “knowingly allowed, supported, and/or sponsored illegal gambling by allowing millions of Americans to link their individual Steam accounts to third- party websites.”
It continues and says that these skins “can … easily be traded and used as collateral for bets. In the esports gambling economy, skins are like casino chips that have monetary value outside the game itself because of the ability to convert them directly into cash.”
McLeod says that, as both a teenager and an adult, he bought skins from Valve, gambled with them and lost money as a result.
The issue of teenagers getting involved in this vastly unregulated world of online wagering is one which the industry as a whole must tackle head on, and sooner rather than later. Unikrn’s CEO Rahul Sood has urged for more action on this numerous times in the past six months.
The suit says: “That most of the people in the CS:GO gambling economy are teenagers and under 21 makes Valve’s and the other Defendants’ actions even more unconscionable.”
“In sum, Valve owns the league, sells the casino chips, and receives a piece of the casino’s income stream through foreign websites in order to maintain the charade that Valve is not promoting and profiting from online gambling, like a modern-day Captain Renault from Casablanca.“