With the rise in popularity of the computer game “Counter Strike: Global Offensive” (CS:GO), the lucrative industry of online gambling has become widespread. Since online gambling is relatively new and has little to no restrictions for people participating, many kids playing CS:GO have spent untold amounts of time and money on this addicting activity.
So, how does online gambling work in CS:GO? In the game, players can obtain artificial “skins” to put on their in-game weapons, with the cosmetic benefit being the only one present. Skins have actual monetary values, and they can be given to a player for free, opened through a case, or bought from the virtual online market on the Steam platform, which is the largest computer gaming software offering multiplayer games and an online trading market. However, most skins given to players for free from the game are very common and worth only a few cents, and almost all of the rare and expensive skins can only be found on the Steam market or by opening cases, which cost $2.49 to unlock.
After obtaining skins, players can sell them on the Steam market for online credit or real money on some third party sites.
Since many players cannot afford to buy skins, they resort to online betting in an attempt to “get rich quick.” Skins can be gambled on various online betting sites and bet on professional CS:GO matches. If the team they bet on wins, they earn virtual money (which can be converted into real money via third-party sites) through extra skins. If the gambler loses, they lose everything put in.
Earnings are based off the odds of a team winning. When asked if he has lost money online, an anonymous student at Canyon Crest Academy replied, “Yes, I lost $200 while gambling skins on websites called CSGO Lounge and CSGO Lotto before they were banned.”
Another popular way to bet online is through casino-style gambling, which is purely based on luck. The participant deposits their skins, and a third-party website chooses one winner. The more that one puts in, the higher the chance the player has at winning more skins. However, once again, if a gambler loses, the website takes everything deposited. Thus, skins are synonymous to chips in a casino.
Tyler Chae-Banks, a senior at Canyon Crest Academy who is involved in gambling on these sites, answered in reply to whether CS:GO gambling is addicting, “Yes…it’s like any other gambling type of thing; you get the rush of winning. When you lose, you think ‘I can make it back.’”
One of the major effects of skin gambling is that more and more players are playing CS:GO not for leisure entertainment, but for the thrill of online betting with the ultimate goal of acquiring a huge inventory of valuable skins and becoming rich. And, just like traditional gambling, players become more and more addicted and desperate after they lose their bets. Thus, many players have spent a lot of money just to obtain more skins and then gamble them online, only to lose again. This clear exhibition of the gambler’s mindset shows online gambling can be real.
Since the online gambling industry for video games is relatively new, it is still largely in a legal gray area. Online betting websites require gamblers to be over 18, but they don’t have a method of verification. This industry has attracted kids who are curious, yet don’t realize the full consequences of gambling. In fact, an admittedly unscientific poll with more than 5,000 votes on Strawpoll revealed that a staggering 46% of gamblers are under 18 years of age.
Chae-Banks points out that, “a majority…of [CS:GO betting] sites have been shut down in the last five months because of underaged gambling.” However, there are still numerous sites that still exist, such as CS:GO Roll.
Many other questions about the legality of CS:GO online betting have arisen, including whether or not skins should be classified as “a thing of value” under law.
With younger, more easily manipulated minds being pulled into gambling, the puppeteers of shady online gambling activities don’t just lurk in the shadows, but they deceive and lie under the guises of child-friendly attitudes.
In July of 2016, it was revealed that YouTubers Thomas “ProSyndicate” Cassell and Trevor “TmarTn” Martin had falsely advertised and promoted a website they created called CSGO Lotto without disclosing to the audience that they owned it. In previous videos, Cassell and Martin had said things in their videos like, “Guys, you’re not gonna believe how much I won on this site. You’ve got to check it out!” In the video, it would show that they had indeed won a lot of money in the form of skins.
What angered CS:GO players who had gambled on CSGO Lotto was the fact that Cassell and Martin had gambled on their own website (which is illegal due to obvious conflicts of interest) and pretended that their winnings were all luck, when it is very possible that they used bots to control and rig the outcome.
Both YouTubers were sued for promoting gambling to underaged individuals and the site CSGO Lotto was shut down.
CSGO Lotto does not exist anymore. Source: PCINVASION
Despite all the turmoil that occurred due to online gambling in CS:GO, many sites continue to run. This is because it would be very costly for Valve (the owners of the Steam software platform) to completely let go of what Bloomberg reports to be a $7.4 billion industry.
The major questions regarding the morality and legality of online gambling have not been fully addressed as of yet, and the future of this industry is still unknown.