Counter Strike: Global Offensive arguably has the most mainstream appeal of the Big Four esports, probably due to its simplicity. First person shooters are such a major sector of the modern gaming market that everybody has been exposed to them and as such everyone can follow roughly what’s happening in a game of CS:GO. This has resulted in the explosion of CS:GO betting online. Counter Strike betting is also interesting in that there are is a totally different ways to bet on it – the much publicized and controversial skin betting. This guide will explain what skin betting is, the pros and cons, the scandal behind it and the future of skin gambling.
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What Is CS:GO Skin Betting?
Skins are cosmetic enhancements to weapons in CS:GO which vary in value depending on their rarity and popularity. Skins appear randomly in-game for all players, but have to be unlocked with a key that’s bought for $2.50 on the Steam marketplace.
The popularity of the skins was coupled with two other factors which allowed a gambling market to emerge naturally:
- Steam’s Community Market allows you to trade items such as skins with other players for real money from your steam account. This let big skin winners sell them for real money on the market and created a cash incentive, just like gambling.
- Steam’s Trading API allows people to set up third-party sites (i.e. betting sites) to handle mass transactions between players, giving a semi-legitimate gambling platform.
So that’s how the basic economy works. How does the betting itself work?
How Do Skin Bets Work?
Skin bets take a number of different forms:
You should already be familiar with match betting, as it’s pretty much what we talk about on this site. Match betting was particularly popular as it let players in the US bet on games without being in breach of American gambling laws. Instead of betting real money, you can bet items and skins worth up to $300 on various ESL and FACEIT tournament games. It works just like regular esports betting, but your winnings are also paid out in skins to your Steam account via bots.
Jackpot or lottery skin betting is the form that caused a lot of the controversy around the industry. It’s a pretty simple concept – you put your skins into a big pot against other players and bets are taken until a timer runs down. When the timer runs out, a winner is selected to claim all of the skins. The more you wager, the higher your chances of walking away with the pot. It’s responsible for a lot of the reaction videos you may have seen on YouTube and its simple mechanics has made it popular with thousands of gamers.
Mystery boxes operate in a similar fashion to the skin system within the game itself. You choose the crate you’re interested and bet the amount listed underneath. This will take you to a mechanism that looks a little like a slot machine. The wheel spins and gives you the opportunity to win different weapons and skins, some of which are obviously much more valuable than the stake you put forward.
CS:GO Skin Betting Scandal
In recent years, there have been a number of major controversies surrounding the practice of skin betting, ending in a mass class action lawsuit against Valve in 2016. The lawsuit alleged that:
- Skin betting was unregulated and illegal.
- It targeted teenagers and other minors.
- Valve was knowingly part of this by providing skins for use as currency.
- Valve profited when skins were won through the marketplace commission.
The suit was ultimately dismissed in federal court, but it had raised some valid problems with the practice and had tainted Valve’s usually excellent reputation.
The unregulated nature of the market also allowed some high-profile individuals to openly defraud new players through their YouTube channels. ProSyndicate and TMarTn had been promoting their own betting site fraudulently with videos of huge wins without disclosing their ownership of the site involved. Accusations flew around that the players had been tampering with the back end of the site and manipulating big wins to drum up new business. The pair found themselves slapped with their own major lawsuit and further hurt the reputation of skin betting.
The Future Of CS:GO Skin Betting
After the scandal, Valve started a serious crackdown on unlicensed sites and issued cease and desists to anyone using its tools to facilitate illegal gambling. While Valve is now against the practice, CS:GO skin betting has not stopped.
- Valve aren’t stopping the trading API – Valve don’t agree with skin gambling, but they’re not going to remove the trading tools, as it would affect of other activities. This means sites can still run.
- Sites are opening offshore – While Valve is trying to stop operations running from inside the United States, they have no power overseas, leading to more sites migrating abroad and continuing operations.
- You can continue to play today!
Until Valve clamps down on its trading system it looks like skin betting is here to stay.
Should I Try Skin Betting?
There’s nothing objectively wrong with skin betting, and a lot of people have great fun doing it. However, it’s important to understand a few important things before you consider trying it.
- It is real gambling – You’re playing with real money; if you lose it, you’re not getting it back again. It seems stupid, but players often don’t consider it gambling at all.
- It is illegal for under 18s to gamble – Regardless of whether you’re playing with your own money, gambling under the age of 18 is illegal in almost every western country. If you’re under 18 and reading this, STOP! Go and climb a tree or something while you still can.
- Only bet as much as you’re willing to lose – It’s the oldest rule of gambling, but it applies here too. It can be a slippery slope, so quit while you’re ahead and don’t do anything stupid.
Best CS:GO Betting Sites
If you’ve taken all that into consideration and you still fancy giving it a go, here are our five best Counter Strike: Global Offensive betting sites. There are a lot of dubious operations out there, so we’ve focused on big names with strong reputations.
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