To a notable extent, gambling and its culture in CS:GO has played a huge part in the growth of the game. However, 2016 was mired with scandal and controversy in what was supposed to herald an era of change in CS:GO’s gambling culture (and potentially lead to its demise). But how much has actually changed?
When Valve added gun skins to CS:GO in mid-2013, an item economy similar to that of Team Fortress 2’s hat economy was born alongside it. The concept was fairly simple; the skin economy (like it’s TF2 predecessor) would have its prices in accordance to supply and demand by the community. This, in turn, led to the creation of CS:GO betting websites. CSGOLounge was one of the first.
Creating a culture of gambling is very much a double edged sword. On one side it increases the game’s popularity and growth, but on the other it paves the way for corruption and other wrong doings.
The first high profile controversy regarding skin betting was the North American match-fixing incident between iBuyPower and NetCodeGuides. This resulted in four of the former iBP lineup as well as a few other affiliates being permanently banned from future Valve majors and minors. Their ‘throw’ was orchestrated by having an outsider place multiple high value bets on alternative accounts against iBP on CSGOLounge.
The iBP scandal was only the tip of the iceberg. In June of 2016, former professional player and now full time streamer Mohammad “M0e” Assad sparked controversy when he attempted to expose a gambling site “CSGODiamonds” for allegedly giving him prior knowledge of future rolls in order to win consistently on his stream (which he claims was unethical). It’s worth nothing that he only spoke out as a result of them not paying him the amount he felt he was owed in the sponsorship deal that he had with them.
However, when CSGODiamonds responded, the screenshots that they provided suggested that while they did give him some future rolls, he was complicit in this and did not appear to take issue; exacerbating the scandal.
A couple of weeks later in early July of 2016, the CSGODiamonds controversy would be overshadowed by a new scandal brought to the community’s attention. The famous YouTuber “H3H3 Productions” brought forward information regarding the owners of a popular CS:GO gambling website (which had been found initially by the then small YouTuber HonorTheCall) to his huge audience.
The two YouTubers implicated in this new scandal were “TheSyndicateProject” and “Tmartn” – bothm of whom had both previously advertised the website in various YouTube videos along the lines of “Win Big in CSGOLotto!!! $$$”… when in fact ,they owned the website.
This scandal shook the community, and made M0e’s controversy with CSGODiamonds seem lilliputian. Syndicate had acted as if he was being payed by CSGOLotto to promote the website, whilst Tmartn claimed that CSGOLotto was a new site that he had found in a previous (now deleted) video. With back-end access to the website, speculation began circulating that it is possible for both Tmartn and Syndicate to have rigged rolls against those using the site to effectively scam their viewers. However evidence of any rigging on CSGOLotto has yet to be seen and thus remains as speculation.
The CSGOLotto scandal should’ve been the end, but alas, it wasn’t. Just two weeks later, popular YouTuber and Twitch streamer “PhantomL0rd” was found to have secretly owned his own gambling site “CSGOWild” and screenshots surfaced of him colluding with someone else to rig various rolls in order to scam skins from his audience.
As a result of this revelation, his Twitch account (with over 1,000,000 followers) was permanently banned. It remains to be seen if he will be punished further and/or what kind of further punishment he will be given.
At the same time this was happening, Valve were themselves being sued in a class action lawsuit for allegedly allowing minors to gambling on these CSGO gambling sites due to the way in which these websites use bots on Steam in order for the users of each website to deposit and withdraw.
After a month of numerous scandals and the lawsuit that they were involved in, Valve issued a cease and desist letter to multiple CSGO gambling websites. Among these were not only CSGOLotto and CSGODiamonds but also websites like CSGOLounge.
The death of betting on CSGOLounge came as a shock to many in the community as it differed to most of the other sites which would tend to use a coin flip gamemode, as well the fact that betting on Lounge has in a large part contributed to high viewing numbers in many lower tier competitive games. For professional players – who would face abuse and some times death threats on the platform – were probably delighted to see an end to betting on CSGOLounge.
Fast-forward a few months and has much changed? Well with the death of the coin flip gambling, came the birth of various case opening sites such as DrakeMoon. These websites would reportedly take the same sort of system that Valve has in place for opening cases in CS:GO, minus the appalling odds that Valve’s system gives you. Though some have taken issue with DrakeMoon in particular, accusing the website of being a scam as well as the fact that it is seemingly targeting a young audience by styling the cases on their site as Pokémon.
A lot of these websites have been popping up, and many notable CS:GO YouTubers and Twitch streamers have been quick to take sponsorship deals with them. Despite their apparently hard stance, Valve seems not to care about this. What was the point in Valve’s cease and desist order in the summer, aside from covering their own backs in the midst of a lawsuit?
One has to question Valve’s overall motives with regards to these gambling websites. When all of the now deceased coin flip websites were in abundance, Valve did not take action against them and clearly knew gambling websites were a big thing in the community when they stepped in to the iBP scandal.
They may claim that they don’t directly profit from these websites, and whilst that may be true, they still profit indirectly through people buying keys and skins from the Steam Community Market. This would certainly explain their hesitance to shut the coin flip websites down sooner than they eventually did.
Gambling has a inherent place in CS:GO, but it needs to be controlled and properly regulated as opposed to the unregulated and oversaturated mess that it once was and is fast becoming again.