Unregulated gambling in Counter Strike:Global Offensive

What is Counter Strike?

Counter Strike is a five vs five team based first per­son shoot­er.  Teams work togeth­er to kill the mem­bers of the ene­my team, and either plant or defuse a bomb depend­ing on which team you’re on.  It was first cre­at­ed in 1999 as a free mod­i­fi­ca­tion for the game Half-Life.  In 2003, patch ver­sion 1.6 was released and would be the most pop­u­lar ver­sion of the game until Glob­al Offen­sive.  In 2004 Valve released an offi­cial sequel to Counter Strike 1.6, called Counter Strike Source.  It enjoyed mild pop­u­lar­i­ty, but was always over­shad­owed by the 1.6 ver­sion.  In August of 2012, Counter Strike Glob­al Offen­sive was released by Valve.

A screenshot of the top games played by Steam users on 4/21/16.
A screen­shot of the top games played by Steam users on 4/21/16.

Today, CS:GO is the sec­ond most played game on Valve’s game dis­tri­b­u­tion plat­form, Steam.  It trails behind Defense of the Ancients 2, a free to play game.  For a game with a $14.99 price tag, CS:GO has an extreme­ly impres­sive and con­sis­tent­ly increas­ing play­er base.  From 2014 to 2016, the aver­age num­ber of con­cur­rent play­ers over a day more than tripled, from 106,000 to 380,000 accord­ing to steam­charts.

Counter Strike has become a pil­lar of the eSport com­mu­ni­ty, which is pro­ject­ed to gen­er­ate $463 mil­lion in rev­enue in 2016 accord­ing to New­Zoo, a mar­ket research firm.  Major CS:GO tour­na­ments draw view­er­ship of over 1 mil­lion view­ers, all online.  Major stream­ing web­site Twitch hosts the major­i­ty of these view­ers, with the rest watch­ing via the CS:GO game client.  CS:GO view­er­ship is increas­ing at a dra­mat­ic rate.  In 2014, the ESL One Katow­ice CS:GO tour­na­ment was watched by 250,000 view­ers.  That num­ber quadru­pled in just a year.

The most recent major tour­na­ment which took place from March 29 to April 3 in Colum­bus Ohio was viewed by 1.6 mil­lion peo­ple Yahoo eSports report­ed.

An Online Com­mu­ni­ty

This view­er­ship expos­es a lot of dif­fer­ent peo­ple to the game, and also the play­ers.  Just like tra­di­tion­al sports, CS:GO has out­spo­ken or cocky star play­ers who cre­ate a large fan base.  In addi­tion to pro­fes­sion­al play­ers, pop­u­lar live stream­ers on Twitch have devel­oped large fol­low­ings.  Many of these stream­ers can afford to make a liv­ing on twitch.  Pop­u­lar stream­er Summit1g aver­ages around 16,000 unique view­ers at any time per day accord­ing to sta­tis­tics web­site Twinge.  Many of these pop­u­lar stream­ers gam­ble with CS:GO skins live on stream.  Uni­ver­si­ty of Con­necti­cut Sopho­more ACES stu­dent Son Nguyen has seen lots of stream­ers who gam­ble.

I’ve seen nick­bun­yun, Mr. Twee­day, Sparkles, LG.Fallen, and Guardian some­times but he doesn’t gam­ble much.” Nguyen said.

The influ­ence of pop­u­lar stream­ers, in com­bi­na­tion with the rise in pop­u­lar­i­ty of CS:GO recent­ly has led to a mas­sive influx of gam­bling web­sites.

The Counter-Strike section of twitch.tv features broadcasters with varying popularity, almost all of them own expensive skins or gamble with skins. (Screenshot twitch.tv)
The Counter-Strike sec­tion of Twitch fea­tures broad­cast­ers with vary­ing pop­u­lar­i­ty, almost all of them own or gam­ble with expen­sive skins. (Screen­shot Twitch)



In addi­tion to bet­ting on pro­fes­sion­al match­es, there are web­sites that let users sim­ply wager items against each oth­er.  The first of these web­sites to gain major pop­u­lar­i­ty was Csgo­jack­pot.  On Csgo­jack­pot, users enter into a raf­fle against each oth­er to win a pot of items.  Accord­ing to their web­site, the pro­ce­dure is as fol­lows:

  1. Deposit a skin (Min 10 Steam Val­ue — Max 10 skins)
  2. The steam val­ue of the skins you deposit are exchanged into tick­ets
  3. Tick­ets are assigned on 0.01 = 1 tick­et basis
  4. Win­ner is picked ran­dom­ly when 50 skins are deposit­ed
  5. Win­ner receives all skins in the prize pool, except a 5% CS:GO Jack­pot soft­ware ser­vice fee
  6. Trade offer is sent with your win­nings!

These web­sites gained pop­u­lar­i­ty thanks to broad­cast­ers on twitch.tv who streamed them­selves gam­bling on jack­pot style web­sites.  The most pop­u­lar Counter-Strike broad­cast­er, Summit1g often gam­bles live.

The video below con­tains explic­it lan­guage.

24 per­cent of Twitch view­ers are under 18 accord­ing to mar­ket­ing research firm Quant­cast, and young peo­ple emu­late peo­ple they admire.  This leads to sto­ries like Red­dit user /u/IT2346’s.  He went from hav­ing $8,500 in skins, to bet­ting it all away in two months.  Even buy­ing new skins on OPSkins to imme­di­ate­ly bet with on jack­pot web­sites.

UConn Fresh­man Com­put­er Sci­ence major Chris­t­ian Lucas has a sim­i­lar sto­ry, although with less mon­ey involved.  Lucas went from an inven­to­ry of skins worth $2 to an inven­to­ry of over $150, win­ning bets on csgolounge.  Lucas had the for­tune to stop bet­ting while he was still ahead.

My largest loss was an $80 knife, but I had got­ten that knife from bet­ting, so I still con­sid­ered myself fair­ly in the green and quit there.” said Lucas.



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