Is CSGO skin betting seeing a comeback?

Jon Pill
Published by:
Posted on 07/27/2021

According to Harold Purbrick of Purbrick & Associates, gambling with Counter-Strike: Global Offensive skins continues to be big business despite Valve’s best efforts to shut it down.

After a pair of CSGO skins sold together last month for $780,000 scrutiny turned back to skin betting industry. Skin betting is any gambling in which CSGO skins are used as deposits.

Though the poker world has a healthy crossover with CSGO players, eAthletes, and gaming streamers, poker games are no longer easy to find in the skin betting world. Doug Polk led a professional CSGO team through the early stages of several tournaments this year. However, after he and his crew bombed out, he is leaving pro-CSGO behind for a while.

CSGO is big business for Valve. It is one of the highest-profile esports, with events attracting hundreds of thousands of viewers. Valve takes a 15% vig off any skin sales in their online marketplace. CSGO is currently free-to-play. These skin sales are the reason.

Purbrick writes of the current state of the skin gambling industry: “skin betting remains prevalent and multiple skin betting websites continue to operate under dubious claims of legality. These operators accept CS:GO skins as payment, and also often re-sell the skins on their own marketplaces, typically at inflated prices.”

Purbrick is somewhat vague on the scale of the market, but insists that it remains a key part of the CSGO community.

Skin in the game

CSGO skins are graphic elements that modify in-game items. These can range from character costumes down to slightly different-colored knife handles. The skins make their way into the CSGO economy through loot boxes and can be traded between players.

Often these trades involve money-changing hands. Valve, the game publisher behind CSGO, takes a cut of every transaction.

In the past, it was common for skins to change hands outside of Valve’s marketplace. One way this happened was through skin betting sites. These sites would allow players to gamble using skins. The sites offered everything from poker tournaments to slot machines. Players could even bet on the outcome of esports matches with their skins as a stake.

Given the real money value of these skins, the skin-betting market became a lucrative realm for lucky players and canny site operators. Skins became, and to some extent remain a form of currency.

For a time, between the release of CSGO in 2012 and Valve issuing cease and desists to the gaming sites in 2016, skin gambling was an entire secondary market for the CSGO community. In the boom times, at least one of these sites, CSGO Lounge, even applied for a legitimate gambling license.

Valve was understandably unhappy that people were making money off their product and they weren’t getting their cut. So in 2016, they issued cease and desist orders en masse. This changed the skin betting market drastically. You can still find plenty of skin betting sites, but gone are the poker games. You can still play blackjack, roulette, or slot machines. But player-v-player games are near impossible to find. If Purbrick is right about the industry’s renaissance, the poker games might be coming back.

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