Blue & Red Models
Blue & Red Models
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While skin gambling and the issues relating to it has been limited mostly to CS:GO, other games have also seen similar gambling using virtual goods. Valve’s multiplayer online battle arena game Dota 2 uses cosmetic costumes and other skins for the playable characters as virtual currency, which have been both traded and used for eSports betting on similar or the same sites as for CS:GO. As drops of these costume elements are far more rare than in CS:GO, the gambling situation around them was not seen as egregious as CS:GO skin gambling, though does suffer from the same ethical and legal issues. Team Fortress 2’s virtual goods are also used on various gambling sites, to a lesser extant.
Similar black markets and gambling sites exist for games in the FIFA series by Electronic Arts, starting with the FIFA Ultimate Team feature in FIFA 2013, where players would use virtual coins, purchased with real-world funds, to create a team based on real-world FIFA players. Though players are able to trade virtual athletes with another, the mechanisms of behind the coins and players has led to third-party gambling sites that operate on the same principle as CS:GO skin gambling. At least one such case against the sites that offer this type of gambling has prosecuted.
Eve Online, a persistent massively-multiplayer game which includes an in-game economy that is driven by players rather than its developers CCP Games, has had issues with virtual item gambling which imbalanced the player-driver economy. Notably, in an event called “World War Bee” in 2016, numerous players worked with a player-bankrolled casino as to acquire enough in-game wealth and assets as to strip control from the reigning player faction in the game. Following the conflict, players from the affected faction noted potential legal issues with this in-game casino that would run afoul of European gambling laws if minors were involved, as well as how they affected the game’s balance beyond what CCP had envisioned. CCP discovered that alongside these casino, there was also virtual item gambling that involved real-world finances, practices that were against the game’s terms of service. In October 2016, in anticipation of making Eve free-to-play, CCP altered their end-user license agreement terms to disallow any type of gambling using in-game assets, and later banned the accounts of those involved in the gambling scheme, effectively seizing in-game currency estimated to be worth $620,000 in real monetary value
Prior to June 2016, skin gambling had come under criticism for several ethical issues related to the black market nature of skins. At the same time, it was recognized that skin gambling contributed greatly to the success of CS:GO as an eSport, but that it needed to be regulated to avoid some of these ethical issues. Most of the subsequent discussion and action on skin gambling resulted from a video posted by YouTube user “HonorTheCall” in late June 2016. HonorTheCall had observed some allegations of questionable CG:GO promotion through his Call of Duty videos, and in searching in publicly-available information, discovered evidence of unethical practice by one gambling site, which he documented in this video; subsequently, several media outlets took the initial evidence and reported more in-depth on the matter.
Skin gambling sites have attracted a number of malicious users. When roulette-like websites were created, browser extensions claiming to automatically bet for the user were actually malware designed to steal skins and coins. The site which the malware was targeted at was called CSGODouble.
While gambling using virtual items falls within acceptable practice in US case law, the fluidity between virtual goods and currency, enabled by the Steam Marketplace, makes it unclear if skin gambling is legal under US law and if Valve would be liable. Further, the ease of accessibility of skin gambling websites has enabled underage gambling. Justin Carlson, the creator of a skin selling online marketplace website called SkinXchange, said underage gambling is a huge issue, and there were “countless times” where he’s had to call parents to tell them their child had used their credit card to buy items. Carlson cites cases where underage users have bet hundreds or thousands of dollars, just to end up losing them on a betting or jackpot site