April 29th, 2008. This day may seem random but it is the day that Valve introduced unique items into Team Fortress 2 (TF2) that could be attained by random “drops” by playing the game. They had different stats than the default items and different appearances as well. These were a welcome addition to the game and added a collection aspect to it that seemed like a lot of fun. These cost no money to get outside the initial cost of the game, but all that would change on September 30th, 2010.
That is when Valve introduced a system of crates becoming drops instead of weapons and/or hats. The catch is though, you have to spend $2.49 to open them. Keys to open them are not part of the regular loot table. A lot of people complained when this happened, including myself, but soon Valve was raking in money from keys to the point that they made TF2 a free to play game only putting a few restrictions on free accounts. How can you get a full account? Spend a certain amount of money in the shop buying hats or skins or keys to open the chests.
Valve soon introduced this system into CS:GO August 13, 2013, in a major update named the “Arms Deal” update. CS:GO, having a much larger player base and being considered a competitive game, had a much larger player base and lead to websites opening up where you could gamble rare weapon skins. Trevor ‘TmarTn’ Martin and Tom ‘ProSyndicate’ Cassell, were revealed to be owners of a site they repeatedly promoted. Not only promoted but claimed they just “found” and really liked it. The problem is, they owned the site and were gambling on it and won a LOT of rare skins. This is a huge conflict of interest.
So what’s the problem? People are addicted to gambling with these skins. One user on Reddit posted to /r/csgobetting about how it’s affecting him. He’d lost over $80 USD in skins and it wasn’t just the money but his grades that were being drained. He went from #3 in class to 7th lowest. He described his situation as “all of it is ruining my life”. One of the issues with this, also, is that websites don’t do age checks. In the US you have to be 21 to be able to gamble legally, and online gambling is illegal for all ages, but kids in their teens are losing thousands of Dollars on gambling and they don’t feel they can stop. One teenager charged over $2000 USD to his parents credit card without them realizing it just to feed his habit.
Valve has since been sued by players for, as the lawsuit states, allowing an “illegal online gambling market” to spring up and propagate around the popular online shooter. The lawsuit was filed by Michael John Mcleod and alleges that Valve allowed third-party sites to open up and basically did nothing to stop not just the illegal gambling but the illegal underage gambling as well. That Valve “knowingly allowed, supported, and/or sponsored illegal gambling by allowing millions of Americans to link their individual Steam accounts to third- party websites”. So why did Valve look the other way? They have sold 21 million copies of the game for $567 million dollars in total revenue. On top of this, skins gambling is a $2.3 billion dollar industry and Valve, gets a whopping 15% of the money from this. That’s $345 million USD which is nearly how much they’ve gotten JUST for the game sales themselves.
One site, which I won’t name here, has not only been running without Valve telling them to stop, they have actually worked with Valve employees and developers on ways to make their website work better with the Valve backend system. The website even shirks any responsibility by telling kids or the “younger audience” who feel they have been scammed “If something is wrong, don’t post on the forums; contact Valve/Steam,”a moderator writes.
If you suspect someone you know has a gambling problem, ways to help are available; however, the most important thing you can do is to encourage them to get help from a professional. It’s important to remember that even though a person’s gambling has affected you to the point where you’re ready for them to change, they might not be ready yet. You can offer support and seek professional help with how to proceed, but you can’t make someone ready to change.
Although it can be challenging to confront someone about a gambling problem, the best thing you can do is to start by asking someone if the problem exists, according to the Victoria State Government. Although you might not get a straight answer and you won’t know how someone will react, if you approach someone in a non-confrontational way, you might get some useful information.
When talking to someone with a gambling problem, remember that if you want someone to be honest with you, be honest yourself. Letting someone know you suspect a problem and are worried, in a supportive and concerned manner, is more likely to work than being deceptive, judgmental or aggressive. Talk about how you’re feeling and what you’ve observed as these things are less likely to trigger an argument. Some people with gambling problems will be relieved and grateful the subject was broached, as they want to talk about it. Other people might not want to talk because they’re ashamed and could become defensive. If a person lies about having a problem, you can still say you care about your loved one and give them information on where to get help.