Eric 'Xenon' Yu, July 15, 2016

The Start Of It All: Skin Gambling

Valve recently made an announcement stating that they’ll no longer be allowing gambling websites to use their API; thus, (hopefully) putting an end to the commonly seen roulette, skin betting and jackpot sites. Unregulated, irresponsible gambling has been an issue that has plagued CS:GO for almost a year, and now, Valve has decided to put an end to it all. With the issue being as large as it is, the recent announcement was one of the biggest messages sent out to the community in the history of the game. With that being said, many people from outside the community will begin evaluating Counter-Strike’s gambling world, in attempts to assert their opinions without the knowledge of understanding how it all began. Here is a brief history on CS:GO’s gambling world.

The Arms Deal Update

August 14, 2013, was the day that Valve would announce an update that would change the game forever. It was called the “Arms Deal Update”, implementing a system that allows you to collect, buy, sell, and trade hundreds of decorative weapons skins. You were able to obtain these skins through random drops when playing the game, or purchase weapon cases along with a key to open. Pretty much a similar system to TF2’s skin market. With the extremely rare chance of getting a knife, the rarest weapon in the game, the community went into a “case opening” craze. Many streamers, youtubers, and regular people would spend hundreds of dollars opening massive amounts of cases, in hopes of finding a rare skin; however, most of them would come out with less than what they started with due to the insanely low chances of getting anything worth your while.

Trading, and CS:GO Lounge

With the new update introducing a craze for super rare skins that people could show off to their friends, the CS:GO community followed in the footsteps of the TF2 community and began trading. People would trade by simply offering one skin for another, or they would trade their skin for an X amount of keys. Case keys were basically the main form of currency in CS:GO — you would offer a certain amount of keys for whatever skin you’d like to purchase from someone. The main trading service was CS:GO Lounge, a site where you could post the items you’d like to trade in hopes of getting offers back. People then began to spend real life money on purchasing keys, thus, creating “key vendors”. These “key vendors” were traders who would sell CS:GO keys for Paypal, usually selling for a lower price than Steam. This would be the first real problem in the CS:GO trading world, as scamming became a massive issue. Many people were being scammed by these vendors, which was the only way to purchase cheap keys with real life money. We will discuss more about the scamming issue and how it lead to certain things later on.

As trading became popular, so did match betting. CS:GO Lounge also offered the first ever service where people could bet on professional Counter-Strike matches. They were allowed to enter 4 skins, with each skin being up to $60, which made $240 a max bet. This, would completely amp up the skin world.

Anyone was allowed to bet on CS:GO Lounge, and it was quick money. Instead of opening up cases or spending days trading to get a knife, you could simply win a new knife in an hour by betting on a match. This quickly became very popular, and as a result, the viewership on CS:GO matches grew massively. If a match was on Lounge, it would be guaranteed thousands of views. This was a great thing for the game, and it’s really what put CS:GO on the big stage. Tournaments began to see numbers competing with League of Legends’ LCS, and lower tier amateur matches were gaining unthinkable numbers. A simple match between two unknown teams would easily attract 5,000 viewers — an incredible amount for a game that would only gain a couple hundred two months before.

arms deal

Because of CS:GO Lounge, tons of people began watching Counter-Strike, and many people began to realize what an exciting e-sport it was, thus pushing it to the top. But, despite the incredible increase in viewership and introduction of new fans, CS:GO Lounge created an array of problems.

First, the hate was intense. There has always been trash talk in CS:GO, but not to the extent of when CS:GO Lounge was introduced. When angry bettors lost their money on a match, they would have nothing but anger for the players who supposedly lost them money. They would literally hunt down the players that lost, track all their social media, find them on steam, and send them disgusting messages. For players, death threats were just an everyday message that they had to “toughen out”; and this was all because of someone losing $20 through match betting.

CS:GO Lounge would become the central of Counter-Strike for many people in the community; and as a result, CS:GO Lounge increased the maximum amount people were allowed to wager. People would also create multiple accounts to bet, making $1,000+ bets multiple times every day.

Throws

Throw. Probably the most common word heard among the betting community. During the early stages of CS:GO betting, players and teams weren’t making very much. Tournaments gave out an insufficient amount of money and players were struggling to maintain their careers. As a result, throws were common.

During this time, betting was laxed. Anyone could do it, there was no age restriction, and no  regulations or rules. In fact, a popular streamer named “mOE” would bet on his own team on CS:GO Lounge, and do it while live on his Twitch stream. Many people did this, not just mOE, but it sets an example as to how relaxed the rules were.

ibuypower csgo

Throwing scandals have been rumored throughout almost everyone, and even Virtus.Pro were caught abusing CS:GO Lounge at one point, but the one throw that everyone remembers is the iBUYPOWER Vs. NetcodeGuides scandal. iBUYPOWER had just returned home after losing a tournament and they were at an all time low in morale, so as a result, they threw the match. iBUYPOWER ended up being caught, and 4 of their players were banned for life. That was the turning point, that is when the discussion truly began to rise. We needed rules, and we needed them quick.

Rules were quickly implemented and throwing was OFFICIALLY made illegal. However, that wouldn’t stop the throws that occurred throughout the amateur scene.

Even after the iBUYPOWER event, throws were still common. In fact, there is currently a forum for “inside information”, which is famous for organizing throws and sharing exclusive information. It’s common knowledge now that many amateur North American teams have thrown for a fair share deal with ring leaders. This forum, to this date, is still active.

Almost every player who has been on Lounge has been asked to throw at least once, that’s just how it is.

OPSkins

Remember when I mentioned the issue of scams? Well, OPSkins ended that issue completely. OPSkins was actually a great thing for the community, and many people were saved from being scammed. OPSkins introduced a safe and secure marketplace for people to list their items, and when they sold, they could cashout for paypal. This, for the most part, stopped people from getting scammed by key vendors.

Indirectly, OPSkins also created problems. With real money transfer being made super easy, skins began to see their value rise. Skins were no longer skins, they were money in disguise. People stopped collecting skins for their looks, but began to collect them for their value in hopes of exchanging them later on for some cheap money.

Jackpot, and the beginning of the casino

With skins having more value than they’ve ever had before, CS:GO Jackpot was introduced. This was the site to start it all. It was a simple, yet deadly concept: people would enter a certain amount of skins into a “pot”, and then a random winner would be selected. The more skins you enter, the higher your chances are. This created a whole new craze, a real gambling craze. More and more websites began to pop up copying this jackpot idea, and instead of streaming case openings, people began to stream jackpot sites.

After people saw how much money were to be made from owning these sites (as more than 80% of the sites users would end up losing massive amounts of money), people began to get creative. Poker sites with skins began to be introduced, and roulette sites as well. These sites were designed exactly like a regular casino you’d see in Vegas, except they were open to anyone and were easily accessible. These sites were the real problem.

In the End

Yes, even with all of the problems that CS:GO Lounge has brought, they have to be credited for bringing CS:GO to where it is right now as an e-sport. Without it, CS:GO wouldn’t be nearly as big; however, I don’t think it is as needed as it was before. If it is to stay, there needs to be massive changes and stricter regulations implemented; but, with Valve’s recent announcement, the possibility of CS:GO Lounge being removed is very real; if it is, I don’t think it will destroy the e-sports scene as much as people think it will.

CS:GO is one of the most popular e-sports in the world right now, and there’s a huge amount of fans. Through match betting, or however they got here, they’ve learned that CS:GO is an exciting e-sport to watch, and if we remove the betting aspect, I’m sure that more than 80% of the people will stay. Sure, CS:GO got to where it is now because of unregulated skin betting, but it’s here to stay and gambling isn’t a vital part of it anymore. I mean, guys, we have a league broadcasted on TBS every Friday!

I’m sure some viewership will drop, and lower tier leagues will drop massively in ratings. The size of the e-sport as a whole will still remain.

“From my perspective as a Premier player who was working full time and playing CS:GO competitively as a hobby, I was subjected to playing matches on lounge; which, as you know, is hell when you’re a streamer. You win the match? Maybe one guy says good job. Lose the match? People tell me to kill myself on twitch and twitter. The skin bettors sucked man, and whenever we won they would just say the other team threw. We absolutely hated playing Lounge matches and we got NOTHING out of it. All in all, it made my experience as a CS:GO player pretty terrible and discouraging. I worked full time while i played (for the most part), i liked to stream for fun and it honestly ruined the fun of streaming a lot of times.”

-RobWiz, ex ESEA Premier player, streamer.

Eric 'Xenon' Yu

Eric ‘Xenon’ Yu is a high school student from the Bay Area. He is also an e-sports writer. In his free time, he studies foreign languages, hangs out with friends, and follows Counter Strike. You can reach out to him on twitter @xenoncs