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Shining light on the unregulated gambling rings of Counter-Strike: GO

Bloomberg explores how people of all ages (but especially teens) are buying in-game items for real money and wagering them on CS:GO matches via unregulated third-party betting hubs, as Valve looks on.
"Nothing about Counter-Strike is about the game anymore. It’s all about betting and winning."

- Moritz Maurer, head of sports gambling monitoring firm SportIM.

The business of buying and selling Counter-Strike: Global Offensive items for real money is booming. And since those items can then be traded online relatively easily, that boom has given rise to an unregulated gambling scene where anyone, of any age, can wager real money via item trading.

That scene is the focus of a new Bloomberg Businessweek feature which explores how people of all ages (but especially teens) are buying in-game items like weapon skins and wagering them on CS:GO matches via third-party betting hubs.

What's especially notable about this, as Bloomberg points out, is the fact that Valve takes a cut of Steam Marketplace sales. The company is therefore siphoning a portion of the money that's flowing through these gambling operations.

The flow is significant, too -- we've previously reported on how much money is at stake for the gunrunners of Counter-Strike, and now Bloomberg suggests that as much as $2.3 billion (in virtual items) was wagered on eSports matches last year.

"Valve acts as if they’re a 10-person indie company,” lawyer Ryan Morrison told Bloomberg. “I am shocked that they let this go on."

Morrison told Bloomberg he's heard from at least 25 people this year who have lost money gambling with skins and want to take Valve to court over the matter. Morrison says many of those gamblers were underage, and some lost thousands of dollars on betting sites like CSGO Lounge.

While CSGO Lounge does ask its users to respect their local gambling laws, it does nothing to verify or enforce that compliance, and a portion of its users are teenage Counter-Strike: GO fans.

"Ever since I have been betting, I have been playing less,” Dutch 16-year-old Sven told Bloomberg. “You’re really hyped and hoping that your team will win. Every kill they get, every round they win, you get way more excited.” 

For more on the Counter-Strike: GO gambling scene, you can (and should) read the full story over on Bloomberg Businessweek.

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