A Connecticut man who lost money gambling on Counter-Strike: Global Offensive – a game that was never intended for gambling – has sued manufacturer Valve for its role in an illicit gambling industry that is obliquely – and illegally – connected to the game, The Seattle Times is reporting.
Michael John McLeod of Fairfield, Connecticut, lost money gambling on the popular computer game – his lawsuit doesn’t specify how much – even though it’s illegal as well as forbidden by the game’s terms of service. So in much the same way that the playing card manufacturer is responsible when you lose money in an illegal back-alley poker game (viz, not at all), McLeod feels that Valve is somehow criminally and/or civilly liable for his losses.
— GameSpot (@gamespot) June 25, 2016
For those not familiar with Counter-Strike: Global Offensive (which will be referred to as CS:GO for the remainder of this post), it’s a popular on-line multi-player game played on the Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, or similar platforms. As you can guess by its title and cover art, it is not about gambling. It’s an action-packed, military-based game involving shooting, explosions, and other fun stuff like that.
So how is it connected to illegal gambling? In CS:GO – and in a multitude of other popular online computer games – players can earn virtual rewards – called “skins” – either through gameplay or by buying them directly from the manufacturer. Those rewards can include pieces of armor, weapons, or other upgrades that the players can use in future gameplay, possibly giving them an advantage over other players.
Though these “skins” only exist in the virtual world – they are merely pixels on a screen which are generated by lines of computer code – they can be highly sought-after and fetch outrageous prices. As such, they make a valuable commodity that, like cash, can be used to gamble.
At this point, it bears noting that neither CS:GO manufacturer Valve, nor Sony or Microsoft (manufacturers of the PlayStation and Xbox, respectively) facilitate online gambling of skins – or at all, for that matter.
Instead, third-party gambling websites allow those skins to be used as virtual “chips” that can then be bet just as you would bet at a casino. You can bet them on, say, the outcome of a professional sports game, or the outcome of a hand of blackjack or poker. If you win, you can redeem your skins for cash through yet another series of websites. And if you lose, well, tough for you.
This complicated series of transactions via third- and fourth-parties allow players to skirt gambling laws, and it keeps the game manufacturers out of the mix. Or at least, it that’s the goal.
McLeod’s lawsuit accuses Valve of, at the very least, turning a blind eye to the billion-dollar gambling industry attached to CS: GO. Further, the lawsuit accuses Valve of providing money and technical support to websites facilitating the gambling of skins and websites facilitating the trading of skins for cash.
Other game manufacturers have taken steps to make it harder for players to buy, sell, trade, and gamble skins, while Valve has not, according to gaming writer Chris Grove.
“I think what everyone will be watching for is Valve’s response. They haven’t had much to say publicly on the topic, and this suit could change that.”
Beyond the technical and legal implications of the skins gambling industry, however, there is a larger moral question: if you lose money doing something illegal, do the parties who facilitated the illegal transaction bare any responsibility for your loss? The answer is, “of course not,” and hopefully, any judge in his or her right mind will throw this lawsuit out.
Whether or not Valve should take steps to shut down the illegal gambling industry attached to Counter-Strike: Global Offensive, however, is a matter for the company’s management to decide, not the courts.
[Image via Shutterstock/magicinfoto]