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Counter-Strike: Global Offensive, or CS:GO, is an immensely popular multiplayer first-person shooter from Valve. Unless you play the game or keep up with eSports-related news, you may be unaware of the booming gambling ring that’s cropped up in recent years.
GS:GO wasn’t an immediate hit for Valve. As Bloomberg noted back in April, that all changed when Valve introduced decorative virtual weapon skins in August 2013 that could be acquired in the game and sold for real money.
Valve called it the Arms Deal Update and noted that it let players experience all the illicit thrills of black market weapons trafficking without any of the hanging around in darkened warehouses getting knifed to death. In other words, gamers were free to collect, buy, sell or trade weapon skins that could be used in the game.
Within two years of the update, the number of people playing CS:GO had increased by 1,500 percent according to Bloomberg.
Shortly after, a number of gambling sites launched that allowed players to bet their skins on pro CS:GO matches. According to one estimate, more than three million people wagered $2.3 billion worth of skins in 2015 alone. It’s not just the gambling sites that are making money – most are run on software developed by Valve and thus, pay the developer a 15 percent fee.
Some sites, however, take a different approach to gambling. Instead of betting on pro matches, participants put skins into a big pot and rely on a random number generator to select a winner. The rarer your skin, the better chance you have of winning the entire pot and taking skins wagered by other players.
Over on YouTube, CS:GO gambling of this nature is rather popular. YouTubers Trevor "TmarTn" Martin and Tom "Syndicate" Cassell are among the most popular content creators in this genre, putting together videos showcasing their winnings from a gambling site called CSGO Lotto. With millions of subscribers, their videos are no doubt reaching and influencing loads of impressionable gamers.
Showcasing their winnings and promoting CSGO Lotto is one thing but as it turns out, there’s quite a bit of deception going on as Martin and Cassell have recently been outed as the owner and vice president of the gambling site, respectively.
So what we have here are two guys posting videos in which they act surprised to win skins worth thousands of dollars but all along, they’re behind the site they’re using to “win” the goods. That sure sounds shady to me.
In a post that has since been deleted, Martin admitted that he owned CSGO Lotto and said he wished he had been more upfront about it. He added that his ownership has always been public information and that everything they’ve done up to this point has been legal which is a top priority of theirs.
Research into the matter, however, suggests otherwise. PCGamer and h3hProductions looked into the matter and found no evidence of Martin’s interest in the site. What’s more, they found a transcript from one video that clearly demonstrates deception:
"We found this new site called CSGO Lotto—so I'll link it down in the description if you guys want to check it out. We were betting on it today and I won a pot of like $69 or something like that, so it was a pretty small pot, but it was like the coolest feeling ever. I ended up following them [CSGO Lotto] on Twitter and stuff, and they hit me up and they're talking to me about potentially doing like a skin sponsorship..."