Strike Global Offensive was released in August 2012 and with over 25 million
copies sold since, Counter strike Global offensive or CS:GO for short is one of
the most popular online games today and has a large e-sport presence. Although
The main objective of CS:GO is skill based shooter where the counter terrorists
compete against the terrorists, the boundaries of the game do not stop there.
In August 2013, the creators of CS:GO, Valve added cosmetic weapon finishes
also known as “skins”. Although these skins are just colored pixels on a
screen, they have real world monetary value attached to them and are being used
as currency for wagering in online gambling websites.
dynamics of how these skins are attained is simple. Players play the online
first person competitive shooter and after enough games are won, players are
rewarded with a “loot case” which the skins are contained in. However, to open
the loot case players must make a microtransaction from the developer for a key.
Once the key is purchased it can be used to open one loot case. The player then
has specific odds of achieving valuable in game items from opening the loot case.
For example, blue quality (low value) skins have a 79.92% chance of being
attained, purple quality (medium value) skins have a 15.98% chance of being
attained, pink quality skins (medium-high value) have a 3.2% chance of being
attained, red quality skins (high value) have a 0.64% chance of being attained,
and yellow quality skins (extremely-high value) have a 0.26% chance of being
attained. To put into context, blue quality skins can range from $0.01 to a few
dollars and some yellow quality skins have a value of as much as $2000.
depicted graphic when opening a case is extremely comparable to that of a slot
machine. Opening a loot case most likely
mimics a slot machine to increase its allurement and excitement factor when
attaining something of value. Many popular YouTube videos have gone viral over
specific “case opening” videos with millions of views because of the luck some
individuals have. These videos not only offer free promotion for case opening
in CS:GO but also offer a false sense of luck because based on the odds, it is
extremely unlikely to unbox multiple valuable skins back to back.
Valve is also the owner of the platform Steam,
which is a “pioneering game platform that distributes and manages thousands of
games directly to a community of more than 65 million players around the
world.” Steam allows users to sell their skins on their Steam Community Market
for Steam Wallet Funds, which can be used specifically in the steam ecosystem
to purchase games, skins, and programs. However, third-party sites not
affiliated with Steam have created a bypass for those in possession of rare CS:GO
skins to sell their skins for real-world currency. For example,
SkinXchange.com, lets users sell skins using PayPal. Posting skins to
SkinXchange.com is as simple as logging in with a Steam ID, creating a listing
of one’s valuable skin, setting a price, and waiting for a buyer. The entire
process is one that mimics eBay. Selling
skins on third-party sites not affiliated with Valve is not the issue. The
concern with skins is how simple it is to transfer skins to third-party, non-Valve
affiliated websites, to act as currency for the wager.
gambling aspect of skins goes way beyond loot cases as well. Many third-party websites
have taken interest in allowing users to trade their valuable skins for an
equal or greater value of the websites currency (which usually equates to their
USD value). Therefore, these third-party websites will give you chips to gamble
with using skins as currency for the wager.
Once the skin is deposited players can take part in games like roulette
and if the user wins, they will be rewarded with double their bet in the form
of a skin or of the websites currency (which can be cashed out as a skin).
Based on this scenario third party websites like wtfskins.com are running
massive gambling operations and using CS:GO’s skins as their form of circulating
medium. This method of
running an online casino is not only lucrative, but ethically irresponsible
because of the age group it is targeting. Although the terms of service on
wtfskins.com states “No individual under the age of eighteen (18) may use
WTFSKINS, regardless of any consent from a parent or guardian to use WTFSKINS”.
There is no regard to inquiring about the age of users when creating an
account. The table games are not limited to roulette either. By googling “CSGO
gambling” hundreds of websites appear that offer the same buy-in dynamics of
wtfskins.com. However, they offer a plethora of games to partake in, including
is considered an e-sport which is a
multiplayer video game played competitively for spectators, typically by
professional gamers. E-sports applies the same dynamics as any professional sport.
In short, “In short, “e-sports is similar to the traditional sports from which
it derives its name: it is an entertainment industry built around competition,
fan loyalty, and spectatorship”. “In 2016, ESPN, the major sports network, announced that it would
begin covering e-sports in an online vertical alongside its other online verticals dedicated to
traditional sports, such as football and basketball.15 Over the past four years however,
“thanks to advances in video-streaming technology and Internet broadband,
Esports have become more accessible” and more popular than anyone could have
dreamed.14 Many websites allow users to bet the outcome of competitive CSGO
matches. There are also many instances of professional CS:GO players explaining
in interviews the age that they when introduced to CS:GO and some explaining they
were as young as six years old. Watching e-sport tournaments and matches feels
like viewing traditional sports, such as football and golf: viewers “watch the
games live, watch pre- and post-game interviews with the players,” and watch
banter and dialogue from hosts and commentators.20 With e-sports gaining
popularity so is the betting on them.
strike global offensive has an Entertainment software rating board rating of
“M” for mature, which states: “Content
is generally suitable for ages 17 and up. May contain intense violence, blood
and gore, sexual content and/or strong language.” (https://www.esrb.org/ratings/ratings_guide.aspx) The
Entertainment software rating board rating or ESRB for short is “a non-profit group established in 1994
that assigns ratings to almost every video game that is released, much like the
Motion Picture Association of America does for films in the U.S.”. ( http://scholars.law.unlv.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1118&context=glj)
can simply be purchased online by users younger than the age of 17 by picking a
birthday when creating an account that makes them older than 17 years of
age. Therefore, there is no solid way of
regulating underage players. Moreover, the marketplace Steam, where the game
can be purchased “merely requires one to be 13 years of age or older to create
an account to buy games such as CS:GO”. (http://scholars.law.unlv.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1118&context=glj)
Although it is in Steams
best interest to deter underage players, parents should be responsible for
monitoring the online activities of their underage children.
the skins bet, bought, and sold all occur online without users physically
possessing the items, the potential for abuse is higher. For example, popular
online personalities were using mediums like YouTube and twitch live streaming
to allure viewers into the lucrative act of betting skins. The personalities
were repeatedly doubling, tripling, and quadrupling their bets to market
specific skin-gambling websites. However, it was proven that many of these
personalities had an ownership stake in the website they were using. Which
means they were fraudulently marketing their online casino.
It is necessary for online casinos to be regulated to mitigate
problems which include money-laundering and
fraud. Technically online gambling is not illegal in the U.S specifically because
there is no legislation against it. However, it is critical for legislation to concentrate
their efforts on settings laws and standards regulating online gambling because
of the taxation implications it administers. Currently, Steam is required to
“collect certain taxpayer identifying information from those who engage in more
than 200 transactions in a calendar year.” 139 If a seller exceeds 200
individual transactions in a calendar year while also exceeding $20,000 in
gross sales, that information is reported to the IRS, and Steam sends the
seller a Form 1099″. Although steam is taking action regarding tax information from
its users capitalizing on their marketplace, third party skin gambling websites
provide little to now tax information regarding profit earned.
gambling is quite literal and prominent in Counter Strike Global Offensive.
Hundreds of games use the concept of loot cases and slot-machine like
microtransaction gambling affairs to generate profits on-top of purchasing the
game outright. Some Games entice players with cosmetic “skins” like CS:GO does,
but others use a RNG based loot system to keep players addicted.