Bullets spray across the screen as the last soldier turns down an alleyway, sparks riddling off the wall as he goes. Multiple enemies begin pursuing him down the alley. As they turn down the alleyway, guns perched on shoulders, they find…nothing.
The crowd filling the esports arena erupts in cheers at the spectacle they just witnessed: watching the underdog team in Counter-Strike: Global Offensive come back from an outnumbered situation to pull off the win.
You grin, hardly able to contain your excitement as you look at your phone to check the winnings of the wager you placed. Logging into your account, you go to the match you bet on, eager to collect your winnings. You navigate to the area and, wait, what? Where is the bet?
You can’t even breathe right now. The substantial skins bet you placed is nowhere to be found. How could this happen?
Today you will learn about skins betting and the reason for using websites that you can trust. When you win your wagers, you should, surprise, get them. If you are an esports bettor, it is essential you take note of what is written here, because it can impact the funds in your pocket.
The Whole Skins Betting Craze
If you are familiar with esports betting at all, I am sure you have heard of a little thing called skins betting. After all, it is one of the primary methods players use to make wagers on video games. Simply explained, it is the usage of virtual items to place bets on things such as esports tournaments.
They are typically cosmetic style items that serve no purpose other than to make gear or characters look cooler in games such as CS:GO and Dota 2. Why does this matter to those who aren’t avid players of the games themselves?
Well, people will pay big bucks for them on the third-party market, using auction sites outside of the games themselves.
In Dota 2, the highest-selling item to date was the Legacy Ethereal Flames Wardog that sold for $38,000 to the owner of a pro-gaming team out of China.
But it is not just owners of teams who pay big bucks for items. A collector bought a one-of-a-kind “Factory New M9 Bayonet Crimson Web” knife in CS:GO for $23,850. These examples are undoubtedly on the ridiculous end.
Most of the skins sell within the $500-$2000 range, yet they can go for much higher. The value of these items is based entirely on what people will pay for them. Since they do not have an actual “base” monetary value, the prices can fluctuate substantially.
That fluctuation does not stop people from finding ways to use them to bet, and has expanded from just esports tournaments to many forms of online gambling. The ability to bet with skins has flooded the market with all sorts of third-party websites looking to offer people a way to use them in wagers.
The mass influx of websites has led all esports bettors down a path that opens a question: when it comes to skins betting, who should you trust?
The Skins Betting Debacle
The whole concept of skins betting resides in a grey area of currency and legal gambling aspects, because virtual items are not necessarily money, yet they get used in the place of money. The value is entirely based on what people will pay for them.
For example, I could pay you $4,000 for a random rock in your front yard. That does not mean I can resell it for the same price. Just because I paid four grand for it doesn’t mean some other bozo would.
The value that is placed upon the rock is rooted in how much I was willing to pay for it, and not the value of the actual item itself. That is the idea that is applied to the buying and selling of skins. Their value can change rapidly and be worth one amount today and nothing tomorrow.
When it comes to ownership, there is even further confusion surrounding digital items. Even when we have them “in our possession,” skins do not exist in the physical world and are not our property. Did I lose you? Let me explain.
In the gaming world, we own our accounts, but the gaming company owns the actual game itself and all the data within it. That includes all the items, skins, and everything else to do with their little virtual world.
So, even though you can use the items to place bets, win or lose them, and sell them on third party websites, they are never technically yours. What this means is that you have no legal recourse or means of compensation if a third-party site cheats you.
Countries have tried to go after Valve for allowing the skins market to grow and become a form of currency. Skins have received criticism similar to that of cryptocurrencies such as Bitcoin, in that they have been used to launder money, promote underage gambling, pay for drug sales, and so on.
The issue is that Valve is a gaming company and is not behind the third-party websites who are responsible for much of what is going down in the skins betting community. They have their digital marketplace on their Steam platform that players can use to sell virtual items, and the profits go directly to the account.
There is a significant difference between the marketplace and third-party betting sites; you cannot get real money out of the Steam marketplace. Money put into the Steam account remains there, and can only be used to purchase additional games or other products within the game.
Cryptocurrencies are still in a battle about whether they should be considered as currency and what type of laws need to be applied to them. The legal grey area around skins betting and the concept of whether it can even be considered currency or not still remains.
While Bitcoins are data that is owned by a person and then accepted as currency by some places, skins and other forms of digital items are not. I know the concept is slightly strange. After all, they are both data.
Let’s use an example again. You can pay for a specific service with a Bitcoin, yet you can’t pay with a cosmetic skin that’s usable in CS:GO. The value of Bitcoin is based on people accepting it as a form of currency, and thus it is money.
Here is where cryptocurrencies and skins differentiate themselves significantly in the market. For example, if Bitcoin regulations came down that made them unacceptable as a form of payment, they would substantially lose their value, because what good are they if you can’t use them for currency?
Regulations coming down regarding skins not being an accepted form of currency would not remove them from the market. Players are the ones who determine what they are willing to pay for the virtual items. The sale of digital objects is nothing new. The concept of them being used on a mass scale is the only reason they have gained attention.
Even if regulations are made against skin usage, the digital black market will continue to thrive. Therefore, skins betting and different forms of it will not be going away anytime soon. I believe it will only evolve and begin to include other gaming universes.
Valve’s Crack Down
Third-party websites come in many forms, and have been known to be places shrouded in scams and risks. Especially when it comes to skins betting. There is not a lot of legal recourse for players to take against websites that scam them, since technically skins aren’t actual money.
The Washington State Gambling Commission went after Valve and their Steam platform, insinuating that the company facilitated skin gambling for Counter-Strike: Global Offensive. The allegation is based on the lack of proper regulations that third-party sites were utilizing.
Valve was targeted because their Steam platform was being utilized by those sites to orchestrate under-the-radar type gambling operations. The Washington State Gambling Commission felt that because Valve could do something to stop these sites, they should.
That would mean shutting down portions of their Steam platform, which would hurt their player base and damage their overall product. The gaming company disagreed entirely with these allegations thrown at them by the WSGC.
Valve insisted that they do not promote or have anything to do with these websites, and have in fact gone after more than 40 sites by sending them cease orders. But they were not going to disrupt their players’ games by removing Steam elements.
They would, however, continue to go after the third-party websites that were violating their terms of service. Whether Valve can genuinely do anything against the third-party sites and the entire skins betting black market is yet to be seen.
How to Know It’s Reputable
When hearing about online gambling and the warnings behind using one site or another, you are consistently warned to utilize gambling sites that are trustworthy and reputable. What does that even mean?
That can be from paying out winnings, positive customer service, history, and so on.
Reading what people say about a website can quickly provide you with answers. The more reviews of positive interactions a site might have, the better the chances are of it being legit. Don’t rely just on positive reviews. You will want to check on their history as well.
How long they have been in business can be a great indication of whether they can be trusted. Shadier companies have issues staying under the radar for extended periods of time in the gaming community. If you have a negative experience with someone, you will oft shout out your disdain to anyone who will listen.
Online sports betting sites that have been around for a while are some of your best options, since they are not only dealing with skins, but they have also been around the block when it comes to online gambling and could be the most likely ones to follow the proper regulations.
You can learn a lot just by doing some minor research and looking up the sites on Google and going through some of their reviews. It is always a smart idea to use trusted websites that provide you with good information and point you in the right direction.
Remember, a site with flashy gimmicks and promotions can still be a scam. Know who you are dealing with, whether you are betting with actual money or with skins.
Overall, skins betting is a tricky situation, no matter which way you look at it. The debate whether they should be considered currency or not, the grey area involved with gambling, and a myriad of other issues surround the practice.
However, as esports bettors, it is crucial that we understand the market, because as it stands right now, it is currently here to stay for the foreseeable future. It is prevalent within the competitive esports scene and remains one of the primary methods for players to make wagers.
Laws and regulations may come into place, but they have a long way to go if they want to catch up to the always-evolving market. It is in our best interest to keep an eye on the ever-changing flow of the global gambling scene. After all, changes in the betting world can have a direct impact on our wallets.
Remember, if you intend to skins bet, use sites with positive reviews and a good background history. I cannot stress enough how important it is to use legit sites when making wagers.