Gaming and Gambling, a Tale of Caution [UPDATED]
The EVE Online community is no stranger to controversy about online games and gambling. The recent World War Bee was partially caused by drama surrounding EVE Online gambling site I Want ISK. That same site has itself been the target of allegations of RMT (Real Money Trading) which is against the EVE Online EULA. The controversy and discussion about the legality of gambling in EVE has always been a hot button issue.
The issue has been largely put to bed in regards to IWISK within the EVE community. Mainly due to the nature of EVE RMT being strictly forbidden, this makes it impossible to draw a consistent connection between profiteering and gambling for the site. The future may be changing for IWISK and other gaming focused gambling sites. A fast-developing story about two popular YouTubers engaging in “shilling” for a Counterstrike: Global Offensive gambling site they co-own has shed new light on the gaming industry and it’s problems with self-regulation. The popular FPS CS:GO allows users to buy in-game skins via a randomized “wager”, which some have likened to a highly addictive, and profitable, slot machine. The CS:GO community is no stranger to scamming and shady behavior occurring around this “wager” mechanic. But the case of CSGOLotto is a new beast entirely.
Two major figures in the YouTube scene, Trevor ‘TmarTn’ Martin and Tom ‘TheSyndicatePro’ Cassell, have been exposed as undisclosed owners of a CS:GO ‘lottery’ site that the pair regularly advertised in their videos.
After their ownership of csgolotto.com was brought to light, Martin claimed (falsely) that he was not one of the company owners at the time his videos were recorded. He then attempted to cover his own tracks further by retroactively altering video summaries and adding reference to his involvement in csgolotto in his twitter profile.
In their videos, Martin and Cassell (the site co-owners) pretended to have ‘discovered’ csgolotto and then depicted themselves making sizeable wins, urging viewers to try the same thing for themselves. This is the textbook definition of shilling, and the non-disclosure is explicitly forbidden under Federal Trade Commission guidelines. And unlike in some areas where these types of promotion guidelines lack strict punishment. The FTC levies significant fines and violators may even face jail time in extreme cases.
But this isn’t the end of the woes of Martin and Cassell. Martin was a “minority owner” in Team Envy, who have released a statement today clarifying the extent of his involvement.
As an eSports team heavily involved in the CS:GO scene, you can imagine why Envy would want to disavow a relationship with a character who failed to disclose ownership of an unregulated gambling site he was actively promoting.
“As a company and as managing partners, we have absolutely no involvement with or ties to CSGOLotto.com. Recently, a few of our CS:GO players have been offered sponsorship with CSGOLotto.com among many other lottery driven or skin marketplace type web destinations on an individual basis. Our organization does not manage those relationships and have advised our players to avoid further relationships with any company that may be deemed as negligent by the vocal community.
We have always rejected lucrative offers from groups who operate unregulated marketplaces, lottery or wagering type properties and will continue to do so. At this time, we will fully cooperate with any publisher, partner or party we are engaged in business with in order to maintain this position we have dedicated ourselves to all along.”
So while it’s clear that this controversy isn’t quite finished yet, it’s not known just how much of an impact this will have, if any, on the wider gaming industry. A betting man would expect some tightening of the quality of PR and public image by a variety of gaming focused gambling sites and related services.
Legal counsel for Martin has issued a public statement for their client. The announcement echoes an earlier apology video from Martin, especially in regards to his contention that because legal documents that made his shared ownership of CSGOLotto were public record, this translates to an implied lack of culpability. And of course, there is an expected series of deflections that try to disassociate CSGOLotto from gambling.
“First and foremost, Trevor Martin values the support of his YouTube followers, and he is focused on publishing entertaining content for them.
“The ownership interests in CSGO Lotto have been public record since the company organized in December 2015.
“It is important to understand that winners on the website are randomly determined by both algorithms and computer code. The odds of winning games played at CSGO Lotto are not more or less favorable to any players. The company has fail-safe measures in place to prevent any person and any player from independently changing or manipulating the outcomes of any games played.
“CSGO Lotto finds it deeply troubling that statements against both the company and its owners are not supported by facts and lack a serious understanding of “gambling,” as that term is legally defined. In this way, CSGO Lotto is materially different from its competitors who operate other game play websites that may, in fact, cross the line of legality.
“-Coleman Watson, Esq. Watson LLP”
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