It wasn’t the threat of being sued that scared the gambling sites straight, it wasn’t the fear of being fined or threatened by the Federal Trade Commission or the Advertising Standards Authority that whipped the Counter-Strike: Global Offensive gambling rings into unadulterated fear… nope. It was Gabe Newell cracking the whip with an official mandate from Valve, announcing that they would be tracking down and cracking down on gambling sites that scared the gambling sites stiff.
Polygon is reporting that multiple gambling sites hosting Counter-Strike: Global Offensive gambling and betting have closed up shop in the wake of Valve’s announcement that they would be sending cease and desist notifications to unsanctioned gambling sites that allow for betting and gambling on Counter-Strike: Global Offensive goods.
Four of the websites have suspended their services, and CS: GO Lotto – the site owned by Trevor A. Martin and Tom Cassell, the two who originally came under fire for alleged solicitation of underage gambling and violating FTC regulations with undisclosed promotion of the service on their YouTube channels – has also suspended its services, but they claim that it’s due to the “high Majors traffic” that was expected over the weekend.
Opposite of CS: GO Lotto, other sites have admitted that they have closed up shop in the wake of the new crackdown on these sites by Valve. CSGODouble.com suspended all their services, stating…
“Valve pushes to shut down gambling. CSGODouble suspending operations indefinitely.”
An image of the front page of the site looks like a speakeasy that was shutdown during the prohibition era.
Others sites like CSGOdices.com (a site that didn’t really try to hide its ties to gambling) has a notice on the front page stating…
“Due to the recent announcement from Valve CSGODices has decided to cease the operations.
“The first step is that we will no longer be accepting deposits. Everyone with existing balance are encouraged to withdraw as soon as they can.”
Speaking of speakeasies… this turn of events could lead to a more underground-style subculture of Counter-Strike: Global Offensive betting and gambling. According to Bloomberg it was a $2.3 billion dollar industry, so that kind of money just doesn’t disappear, and I can’t imagine that a lot of the people profiting from that business would want it to entirely disappear.
In the Polygon article they quote the owners of OPSkins, who made a Reddit post on July 14th, 2016, where they defended their site and stated that they are not a gambling den. They write…
“As our community is well aware, OPSkins is not and never has been a gambling website. Some recent media articles concerning the lawsuit against Valve Corporation alleging underage gambling with CS:GO skins have incorrectly labeled OPSkins as a gambling site. That is clearly not correct. OPSkins is a digital item marketplace – a platform that responsibly connects buyers with sellers of in-game virtual items.”
It is true that they don’t solicit or advertise betting or gambling as a service on their site. If you visit OPSkins.com it’s a basic skin ware site. You can buy or sell your skins but there doesn’t appear to be any gambling or betting going on. It’s just a basic storefront, as indicated in the image below.
Valve didn’t crackdown on sites like OPSkins. So long as buying and selling is possible without the gambling element, your Counter-Strike: Global Offensive site should be safe and the use of the OpenID API from Valve should limit any possibilities of receiving a C&D letter.
Other sites like CSGORumble, however, will continue to be the victim of Valve’s crackdown on gambling within the Counter-Strike community. Their site has basically been wiped right off the internet, with nothing but a simple message stating that their services have come to an end.
Other sites like SteamLoto.org are still up and functioning. This was the site that worked with YouTuber Trevor “PsiSyndicate” Stewart to rig some winnings in order to promote the site across Stewart’s YouTube channel. It’s based out of Russia but that doesn’t mean it’s outside the jurisdiction of the FTC… and yes, the FTC has been notified about these sites, both local and foreign.
In the meantime lawyers are working with some gamers who feel as if they’ve been misled, deceived and fleeced by some of these gambling promotions, and are seeking to sue through civil lawsuits.
Even for the surviving gambling sites, their promotional efforts will be severely limited, as broadcasting of betting or gambling from sites in violation of Valve’s subscriber agreement and terms of service have been prohibited and banned from Twitch.
The Counter-Strike: Global Offensive community has definitely seen a major shakeup following the original investigation by YouTuber Honor The Call.