/ Esports

Skins Gambling: A lesson for esports

If there is a hot button topic around esports gambling, it is probably skins betting. Many of us, especially in the CS:GO playerbase, have had that moment when a drop has quickened our heartrate, dreaming of that Dragonlore AWP or Empress AK, and equally many have experienced the disappointment of knowing we were so close to our dream Deagle, only to end the day with a stylish but useless PP Bizon. However your experience goes though, drops are an intrinsic part of the Valve business model, and with that company in control of 66% of the big three esports, they are likely here to stay.

The problem is, consumer confidence is not great, especially in the areas that only really see esports when it reaches the BBC etc, by which point it has had the majority of the fact diluted. A lot of this stems from the actions of five Americans with questionable morals, and one Brit with a spine of course, as the most famous story around this subject involves IBuyPower and the investigation into their actions by Richard Lewis. Even those who haven’t followed the CS:GO scene closely are most likely aware of what remains the highest profile case of match fixing esports has seen to date.

Harsh penalties for high level players


At the time the darlings of the US scene, the team featured arguably the best player ever to come from North America in Braxton 'swag' Pierce, but were banned permanently from all Valve events after an investigation found them guilty of throwing games in exchange for skins. Eventually seven people were banned, with all but Tyler ‘Skadoodle’ Latham from IBuyPower given permanent life bans from all Valve events (Majors). This might seem harsh for skin gambling alone, but the fact they lost intentionally should never be overlooked, regardless of how pathetic the payoff was.

For those not aware, Latham was spared a ban due to the fact he received no skins, with the reason for this varying depending on who you believe, and therefore having no paper trail leading back to him, but the message stuck. Since then ESL have lifted their sanctions on the players, but the fact they can never compete at the highest level means their value is extremely limited to any serious org, as we saw with the recent comeback attempt. It also transpires that some of them just aren’t good enough anymore, but that’s a different conversation.

As a result of all this, the phrase skin gambling has some negative weight attached to it, but the interest is still intense from a consumer point of view, and understandably so. Equally, the fact some players were unscrupulous and stupid enough to throw away a game, and probably career for a few skins is no reflection on the scene, just as Joey Barton is no reflection on the average punter or footballer, thankfully.

The real issue for this area going forward is age verification, rather than amoral players, and even as we speak lawyers are invoicing clients for potential suits against Valve for just this. In June 2016, a resident of Connecticut named Michael John McLeod brought a lawsuit against the Half-Life publishers, citing "illegal gambling" issues "knowingly" created by Valve and three skin-trading sites, CSGO Diamonds, CSGO Lounge and OPSkins.

The suit, which focuses around a few points, including gambling by minors, asserts that Valve not only provides the currency (skins) for gambling, but then goes on to profit from the resulting trades. An article on ESPN looking at another potential suit highlighted the case of one Elijah Ballard, a plaintiff in one of the cases, who had allegedly become addicted to skins gambling when he was twelve years old, and used his parent’s credit cards to purchase them for betting purposes.

So, as you can see, there are a number of issues around skin gambling that have the potential to be problems long-term, but as is so often the case education is the key to resolving them. Esports needs to not only learn from the traditional sports betting industry, where much effort goes into verifying the age of all punters, but also to work with the publishers to ensure the system is airtight from start to finish. At BetOnBit we believe we have the sports industry knowledge to bring a level of trust to our own users, and there are signs that Valve may be open to working to eradicate this issue as well, which can only improve things going forward.