Valve to address CS:GO gambling site controversy

July 14, 2016 // 11:39 a.m.

Tags: #counter-strike #csgo #csgo-lotto #erik-johnson #fraud #gambling #gaming #valve

Following reports of fraud in the Counter-Strike: Global Offensive (CS:GO) skin-gambling community and concerns of children's exposure to same, Valve has claimed it will start chasing the worst offenders but has stated it will not be closing down the platform which allows them to operate.

The discovery that two high-profile YouTube personalities had been pushing viewers towards a CS:GO gambling site they owned through fraudulent videos demonstrating a rigged win streak has led to considerable hand-wringing, ranging from calls for the YouTubers to be investigated for fraud offences to claims that by turning what is ostensibly a first-person shooter into a virtual slot machine by selling keys to unlock the randomised contents of in-game crates, Valve is actively supporting and encouraging underage gambling.

'In 2011, we added a feature to Steam that enabled users to trade in-game items as a way to make it easier for people to get the items they wanted in games featuring in-game economies. Since then a number of gambling sites started leveraging the Steam trading system, and there’s been some false assumptions about our involvement with these sites. We’d like to clarify that we have no business relationships with any of these sites. We have never received any revenue from them,' claimed Valve's Erik Johnson in the company's first official statement on the matter, apparently choosing to ignore the fact that by selling crate keys for real-world money Valve has very much profited from third-party gambling sites increasing demand for said keys.

'These sites have basically pieced together their operations in a two-part fashion. First, they are using the OpenID API as a way for users to prove ownership of their Steam accounts and items. Any other information they obtain about a user's Steam account is either manually disclosed by the user or obtained from the user’s Steam Community profile (when the user has chosen to make their profile public). Second, they create automated Steam accounts that make the same web calls as individual Steam users,' Johnson continued. 'Using the OpenID API and making the same web calls as Steam users to run a gambling business is not allowed by our API nor our user agreements. We are going to start sending notices to these sites requesting they cease operations through Steam, and further pursue the matter as necessary. Users should probably consider this information as they manage their in-game item inventory and trade activity.'

While Johnson's statement indicates that the company will be sending cease and desist notices to Steam-linked gambling sites, his company appears to be willing to continue running the API which it claims is being abused as well as continue with its slot machine inspired CS:GO in-game gambling system. The company's statement also ignores claims from CSGO Lotto, the main site embroiled in the controversy, that it has received support from Valve staffers in the past - which would appear to fly in the face of Johnson's statement that running a gambling site is against Valve's API user agreement. The wording also opens a potential loophole: sites that operate without directly using the OpenID API and Steam API are by definition not violating any user agreements.

At the same time, Amazon-owned Twitch issued its own statement to distance itself from the issue, stating that any broadcaster violating Valve's user agreements would be prohibited from broadcasting via its service.
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