In video games, skin betting is using virtual goods, such as cosmetic elements like skins that have no influence on the gameplay, for virtual currency to wager on the outcome of professional matches or other games related to chance. It mainly has happened within the community of Counter-Strike: Global Offensive, which was developed by the Valve Corporation. However, a practice of it exists in other games as well.
The company also runs Steam, which is a marketplace that could be interfaced by third-parties to enable buying, selling and trading skins from the Steam inventories for actual currency. However, the company condemns the gambling practices as this violates Steam’s T&C.
Valve added random skin rewards as a part of an update to CS:GO in 2013, thinking that players will use them to trade with others and bolster the Steam marketplace and the player community. Many sites were created to bypass the restrictions which were set by Valve on Steam to help in high-value trading and allow users to receive real money for their skins. Some of these websites also added the ability to bet on the results of professional matches or other games of chance, which in 2016 handled around $5 billion of the skins.
These CS:GO skin betting sites, along with Valve and streamers, are under scrutiny because of legal and ethical questions relating to betting on sports matches, undisclosed promotion, outcome rigging, and underage gambling. Such evidence was discovered in June 2016, which led to two formal lawsuits that were filed against Valve and these sites in the following month. The company has taken steps to stop such websites from using Steam’s interface for gambling, which led to about half of these websites to close down, which drove CS:GO skin betting into an underground economy.
That is why CS:GO, the popular FPS from Valve, has been in the news a lot lately, but not in a good way. But it is not just Valve and sites that were in the spotlight. A couple of famous CS:GO Youtube personas were outed as the owners of a betting website which they promoted in their videos.
You might wonder how did it come to this? What made a video game become a gateway to betting for gamers, many of which are under the legal gambling age in the U.S.?
The answer is simply skins.
So What Exactly Is a Skin?
A skin in a video game is an outfit, whether for a character or item. In this context of CS:GO, a skin or finish is a unique visual design created for a weapon, regardless if it is a knife or a firearm.
What Does a Skin Do?
Absolutely nothing. It does look fabulous, but that is it. A skin in CS:GO is a purely cosmetic item, this means that it only affects how a weapon looks, it has nothing to do with its firepower. For example, the P90 submachine gun behaves the exact same way no matter if it comes in the Sand Spray or Leather skins.
How Long Have There Been Skins in CS:GO?
Valve Corporation introduced skins in Global Offensive with the Arms Deal update of the game, which was released in the middle of August 2013. It featured over 100 skins you can buy through different deposit options, split into 10 themes. For example, Office, Assault, Aztec, and Dust.
What Are the Types of Skins?
You should get comfortable because this will take a while. CS:GO offers hundreds of skins, some of which are realistic, and some of which are plainly absurd. Some of these finishes might provide a tactical advantage. For example, the above-mentioned Aztec skins are camouflaged which helps the weapons blend in a jungle environment. However, there are quite a lot of outlandish skins as well, like the Akihabara Accept, which is an assault rifle with an anime magazine printed on its side.
Even though Valve started off believing that military camouflage is really cool, they found out that in reality, the community appreciates finishes that look like paintball guns.
Counter-Strike: Global Offensive offers hundreds of skins some of which are absurd, others realistic. The skins are available in several quality grades that signify the rarity of a skin, and thus, its value. In order from highest to lowest rarity we have: Gold (Exceedingly Rare), Covert (Ancient), Classified (Legendary), Restricted (Mythical), Mil-Spec Grade (Rare), Industrial Grade (Uncommon), Consumer Grade (Common).
Another factor is the exterior quality of the skin. This indicates the freshness of the weapon. In order from tear to most and least wear, we have – Battle-Scarred, Well-Worn, Field-Tested, Minimal Wear, and Factory New.
Finally, the skins are marked as Souvenir, Normal, or StatTrak. A weapon with a StatTrek skin will keep track of your kills, but the number will reset if you put the skin on the Market and someone purchases it. Souvenir skins are the ones that dropped during CS:GO eSports tournaments, and their description will mention the specific event. Some Souvenir items are very rare, as you probably expect, selling for over 100 dollars.
This Is All Useful, but What Does It Have to Do with Gambling?
CS:GO has millions of active players per month, and a lot of that popularity is driven by the presence of the game in the eSports industry.
The skins might be virtual objects, however, they have a real money value which is associated with them that is determined by the economy of the game. It is not a free market since the Valve corporation influences the rarity of items like as Souvenir skins. However, it is still a market, with values that are fluctuating over time, the Steam marketplace for every Global Offensive skin displays a graph which tracks its median sale price over a specific period.
Both in sports and eSports, spectators enjoy gambling on matches. Moreover, several sites have sprung up around CS:GO taking advantage of the API of Steam to allow players to gamble on eSports competitions with Global Offensive skins. A lot of these websites like CSGO Lounge, CSGO Lotto and CSGOBIG trade on CS:GO’s name to attract more customers.
When you place a wager with skins, they are moved to a bot-controlled Steam account which is owned by the 3rd-party service that you are using. If you win, you will get your skin back along with the skin that the losing players have gambled. Then you can sell those skins on the Steam Market or a website.
Thus, the skins serve the same function as chips at a land-based casino.
How Do You Get Skins?
You will receive skins for playing CS:GO as rewards, whether on community or official servers, in loot drops that happen on a regular basis. You will occasionally also receive weapon cases as rewards or loot drops for specific missions. They can only be opened with keys, which can be acquired via trade or purchase at the Steam Community market or bought from the store in the game for $2.50. You can also get skins by trading them on the market or purchasing them there.
However, you should note that Valve takes 15% of all CS:GO-related purchases. However, it is impossible to take money from your Steam Wallet. If it was possible, the software would qualify as a banking institution and Valve would become subject to all types of regulations that the marketplace avoids. Valve has a limit of $500 on Wallet funds, as well as a maximum sale price of $400 for the items on the Steam market.
That is why many CS:GO transactions take place outside of Steam. Valve’s Steam API lets 3rd-party services hook up with the players’ accounts in Steam. This means that the purchases and trades of Global Offensive skins, that have no maximum price can happen on sites like OPSkins and CSGOShop, both of which allow their players to cash out the money they have received from selling skins with payment methods like PayPal.
How Widespread Is This Activity?
It appears to involve a non-trivial segment of the CS:GO user base. If you open CSGOBIG’s site, the first thing you see is the figures for the number of deposits on the last day and the total winnings over the last day.
What is worse is that these websites require players to declare that they are at least 18 years old, however, they do not verify that at all. This allows players of all ages, including young children with access to a gambling facility.
I Have to Check My Kid, He Watches a Lot of CS:GO on Youtube and Twitch
Yeah, you should do that. If your child is watching streamers, tournaments, or plays the game, he or she might be involved with CS:GO skin betting as well.
If you are an adult, you can find some cheap CS:GO skin betting sites on our website.