As we reported a few days ago, Valve was recently sued by players for enabling an “illegal online gambling market” through its weapon cases in Counter-Strike: Global Offensive. For those not in the know, CS:GO is a premium title that features, like many other games, customization for players. The only way to customize your character in the game is through gun skins, which you can acquire through weapon cases that you have to spend $2.50 to “unlock.”
Valve runs a big business profiting from the sale of keys as well as the cut it takes from the sale of guns that players unlock for themselves and put on the Steam Marketplace. Some of these weapon skins can cost as much as thousands of dollars, like the Factory New AK-47: Fire Serpent skin, which is currently selling for $574. As with any big business, third-party sites soon cropped up to take advantage of the system.
The lawsuit alleges that Valve knowingly supported illegal gambling by allowing players to link their accounts to third-party sites. These sites allow players to gamble skins worth real money.
As the scene is currently unregulated, this allows these websites to freely operate their businesses. Yesterday, Ethan Klein of the popular channel h3h3productions published an expose of the practice (with research by HonorTheCall), highlighting two popular CS:GO streamers ProSyndicate and TmarTn of owning a site called CSGOLotto and promoting it to their audience without any disclosure of their ownership of the gambling site.
In addition, the two had direct access to the site (which they owned) to rig the jackpot in order to fabricate any winnings they received on video, all the while encouraging their audience—many of whom aren’t old enough to gamble—to check out the site.
The video references an article on Bloomberg indicating that the industry has become so big that it has the CS:GO skins market was worth more than 2.3 billion dollars in revenue in 2015 alone.
Ethan Klein shows how in numerous videos, the two gaming celebrities promote the website without disclosing their affiliation to the company. The duo are now claiming that the videos were always disclosed, but all evidence indicates otherwise.
Facing a barrage of criticism, TmarTn has since shut down the comments sections in all of his videos and removed ratings. TmarTn also posted a response to Ethan Klein, which he as since deleted. It can be seen below.
Valve has since banned the site from Steam, and is advising users who attempt to log in to the site via Steam with the following warning: “The URL you are attempting to log in to has been blocked by our moderators and staff. This site may be engaged in phishing, scamming, spamming, or delivering malware.” Although it may be interpreted as a knee jerk reaction from Valve, it may set the foundation for the future of his cottage industry.
TmarTn’s affiliated eSports organization Team EnVyUs has also issued a statement to distance themselves from the controversy.