So, there’s been a lot of hubbubb about the CS:GO skin lotteries going about, following the reveal that two major youtubers have deliberately mislead their audiences into thinking they were not affiliated with one of the sites used. But are these lotto sites considered gambling?
Counterstrike: Global Offensive is a first person shooting game, mainly played by young teens, where one of the perks of playing is that you can randomly get new “skins” (or textures) for your in-game items. With Valve’s own trading system, where you can trade these skins with other people or even sell them for real money, this has created a market. Some skins are worth more and some less. This market can vary from a few cents for most skins to up to 3000 US dollars for a single skin.
This created a rather lucrative opportunity for certain websites where you can join other people and put your skins in a pot and a random number generator (basically a coin flip) determines a winner that wins all the skins put in the pot. One such site is CS:GO Lotto, owned and operated by youtubers TmarTn and Syndicate. These two youtubers have recorded themselves playing on the site in front of millions of viewers, while acting like they are not affiliated with the site at all (one of them even stating he had nothing to do with it but that he might get a sponsorship one day).
However, this article is not about that, enough people have talked about it already. What I want to discuss is whether or not it’s considered gambling.
Gambling or not?
Most people’s defense against the gambling argument is that no real money is involved in the trade itself. You put skins in, you have a chance of getting skins back and you can either use them yourself, continue to play the lotto or sell them.
I would argue that the last part is key here. If something has a monetary value, it could be treated as if it was money itself. The FTC agrees with this position, which is the main reason why Linden Lab had to enforce new rules to treat L$ as tokens, rather than currency.
It can be compared to casino chips. We can all agree that playing in a casino is gambling, right? But the chips themselves are not money. You can’t trade chips for goods or services, only play the game with them. But you can trade them in for money.
So if playing the Kino with casino chips is considered gambling, why wouldn’t playing the CS:GO Lotto with skins be considered gambling? And if it is considered gambling, with Valve knowing the main audience for their game, why would they not intervene a lot sooner? Heck, they haven’t even intervened now, and they’re being sued for responsibility over creating a gambling situation for children, along with several owners of these lotto sites.
Let’s see what the court says, but I’m willing to bet that they will see it as gambling as well… pun very intended