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Parent-led lawsuit against Valve over CS:GO skin gambling is dismissed

TLDR: "You didn't use Steam so you can't sue Valve," is how the court ruled.

Bryant Francis

January 14, 2022

2 Min Read
Key art for CS:GO

A United States federal judge has dismissed a lawsuit against Valve brought by the parents of children who had participated in the scurrilous world of Counter-Strike: Global Offensive "skin gambling," where users bought and sold CS:GO skins through third-party websites with the express purpose of gambling to win high-value digital products that could be sold (illicitly) for real money.

Valve has been fending off lawsuits and complaints since 2016 over "skin gambling," from both plaintiffs and the Washington State gambling commission. After journalists began breaking stories about how manipulative CS:GO gambling videos by prominent content creators were being used to hawk third-party platforms that supported the practice, Valve responded with a massive cease-and-desist effort for said sites. 

PC Gamer's Tyler Wilde spotted the lawsuit dismissal, which took place on January 7. The parents' lawsuit had spent years on shaky grounds in part because of Valve's arbitration clause in the Steam end user license agreement, which dictated that complaints against the service go through an arbitration process. The parents were attempting to prove that Valve has "facilitated" gambling because gambling sites used its API.

Since Valve does not run (or condone) skin gambling websites, the arbitrator initially ruled in its favor, though a federal judge allowed the parents to appeal that decision to the courts.

However US District Judge James L Robart has now dismissed the case, stating that the plaintiffs "never visited a Valve or Steam website, never used Steam, never played CS:GO, and never saw or read any representations from Valve about CS:GO, keys, or weapon cases."

The parents therefore could not prove they had been "deceived" by Valve. The case has been dismissed with prejudice. 

Valve suffered a barrage of bad press after the CS:GO skin gambling scene was brought into the light, but it's managed to avoid most legal consequences. Probably because, in fairness, it never operated or condoned the gambling mechanics. The whole incident (and some other money laundering issues) seems to have left a bad taste in the company's mouth over ascribing speculative value to digital goods. 

This of course likely led Valve to say 'no fucking thanks' to NFTs.

About the Author(s)

Bryant Francis

Senior Editor, GameDeveloper.com

Bryant Francis is a writer, journalist, and narrative designer based in Boston, MA. He currently writes for Game Developer, a leading B2B publication for the video game industry. His credits include Proxy Studios' upcoming 4X strategy game Zephon and Amplitude Studio's 2017 game Endless Space 2.

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