Written in conjunction with Simon den Bekker
Almost everyone knows that a lot of CSGO's popularity and thus its reputation comes from the plethora of unique in-game weapon skins. These player-contributed and professionally contributed works of art (and sometimes non-art) are sometimes a source of great pride among players, as they compare and compete in order to win or open a case with an expensive and sometimes beautiful looking weapon skin. Also, people can make money from these.
Betting and gambling is a potentially huge legal and social problem in CSGO.
Valve oddly makes betting incredibly easy in the game itself. One can buy cases that have randomly won weapons upon opening, which the keys to open also cost money. Those weapon skins can be easily transferred to third-party pools, or websites, to be either sold or put into a 'pot' to be won by betting on different professional and semi-professional CSGO matches. There is a wide variety of websites that offer ways to use your weapon skins as collateral, and currency, to gamble and place bets.
You can go to one of several sites, 'csgo-jackpot.com', 'csgo-casino.com', 'csgoshuffle.com' and 'csgofast.com' which work using the 'jackpot system' to produce winners. The jackpot system is a system where you put your skins in a shared pot, of sorts. The total value of your items that you put into the pot determines your percentage chance of winning. When you win, you get the entire pot full of everyone’s skins that have been bet.
This jackpot system is growing in popularity exponentially and some of the biggest streamers on Twitch concentrate primarily on betting on these sites instead of actually playing the game now. Some streams will advertise the gambling quite heavily when it's done, either for the reaction when losing (or winning) or for the excitement of gambling itself.
This is a problem for several reasons. The first is that gambling can be a very addictive and negative thing for many people's lives. Also, some channels are becoming gambling focused, instead of gaming focused. It also highlights another issue that might not necessarily be talked about; Underage gambling. It's illegal in many countries across the world to gamble under a certain age. Also, gambling is generally highly regulated in many nations, the US included. This CSGO gambling is not in the slightest, nor are there controls to prevent underage individuals from gambling. Another minor issue is that it seems to attract a lot of attention, thereby the number of views for legitimate CSGO players.
A lot of children and minors go to these websites to bet. As said before, this is a highly regulated industry with several laws in the US specifically that limit online gambling of any sort. Technically, online gambling is illegal in the US. That is, betting on a game of chance over the Internet is illegal. Poker is argued to be a game of skill, so therefore seems to skirt the definition and falls into a legal grey area.
In 2006 the Unlawful Internet Enforcement Act made some sweeping changes, but left a noticeable grey area. Specifically it "...prohibits gambling businesses from knowingly accepting payments in connection with the participation of another person in a bet or wager that involves the use of the internet and that’s unlawful under any federal state or law.”
Games of chance, which betting using these CSGO websites, is indeed illegal in most of the US. It's legalized though regulated in Delaware, New Jersey and Nevada. And even then, sites must be properly licensed to operate in those states. Even though you're betting things that are indirectly worth money, it might not necessarily be legal in your particular jurisdiction. That, and underage gambling of any sort, for real money or not, is not legal at all.
Oddly, just as in gambling at a casino, the skins are akin to casino tokens, which are indirect representations of real money and are indeed a part of the regulations surrounding gambling and casinos. So perhaps even this indirect betting could be considered actually illegal if brought to the attention of Law Enforcement or the Department of Justice.
Children an legal minors aren’t allowed to bet by the laws of almost every country. And sometimes they don't even buy these skins with their own money. It might be seen as joking to say that these kids “use their mom’s credit card”. But the stupid thing is that this actually happens more often than you think. This isn’t a joke, kids shouldn’t be allowed to take part in this system where they can lose all their money (and their parents money) while they are betting virtual items.
The good side about the jackpot system is that it can change people’s life’s. Imagine someone who is having trouble paying all his bills, he puts all of his hard won skins in a jackpot and wins $1000 worth of skins, which can be sold within the Steam Community. The chances of something like this happening are slim to none, but it's certainly possible. Gambling can also have you losing all of your money by buying skins that aren't expensive in attempts to do this, so like other instances of gambling, it's risky and not necessarily a good idea.
Kids shouldn’t be allowed to bet this easily, regardless of whether it happens to skirt the laws so gracefully. Even if they don't operate in the US, these sites should find ways to determine the age, so they can ban kids until they are the legal age.
A little gambling isn't so horrible, but not everyone has the self-control to stop while they're ahead, or to just do it once, should they lose. Falling into this legal grey area isn't helping anyone, and it can potentially blow up into a very horrible ordeal. Kids are stealing money to participate, and it's only legal because no one has really noticed. It's been on the fringe, as it's not necessarily considered a large deal. But now that it's enabling minors across the world, perhaps something should be done.