According to posts by bettors on Reddit, as well as an official announcement by Fanobet, game maker Valve Corporation, which ordered both sites last month to cease and desist the use of its Steam platform to facilitate skin betting, is believed to have taken the action against the sites’s trade bots.
Bots enable the literal transfer of wagered items (in this case CS:GO skins) to and from gambling sites and bettors taking placing wagers.
Read more about how skin gambling works in this white paper.
Sportsbooks stayed open at own peril
CSGOLounge, which was named in the first cease and desist letter from July 19, did not shut down following that order. It instead announced on Aug. 1 that it would restrict skin betting by players in at least 15 countries and six territories to comply with local gambling laws. It also instituted other changes in its terms and conditions.
The site still permitted skin betting through the Steam accounts of users in the remaining countries, however. It was unclear how its initial alterations of service complied with Valve’s stated goal: to keep third parties from using its software to facilitate skin betting.
Fanobet, which was named in the second cease and desist letter from July 29, did not shut down following that order, and continued to operate in countries outside of the United States, from which it has blocked users since March.
Valve has blocked or suspended bots used by other sites that have also declined to shut down within the 10-day window prescribed by its letters, including CSGOCrash and CSGOPot.
Fanobet converting from skins to Bitcoin
Fanobet’s announcement Thursday, that it would convert all remaining user skin balances to Bitcoin after seven days, suggested a de facto belated compliance with Valve’s July 29 request—but only after the company forced its hand.
Dear CSGOBetting users,
Today some of our bots have been blocked by Valve. It means we are not able to provide skin deposits anymore. We ask our users to withdraw skins in max 7 days. After that we will convert your balance to Bitcoins. Each $1 in skins is going to be $0.65 in BTC on withdrawal. Bitcoins should work in 48 hours from now.
According to the timetable of the announcement, the bot blocking occurred two days after the 10-day window of the July 29 C&D expired.
The announcement indicates that the site, which became unique for its facilitation of skin betting on both professional esports and professional baseball, football, basketball and soccer matches, will no longer offer skin betting-based products as of Aug. 18.
One Bitcoin is worth approximately $587. An ESBE analysis found that the average value of a skin bet on CSGOLounge earlier this year was $9.75.[show-table name=betway]
Uncertainty still prevalent
The transformation appeared to create not just a race against time for Fanobet users, but also a period of extreme uncertainty for both players and the operator.
The admin instructed bettors to withdraw their skins as quickly as they could because Fanobet didn’t know when Valve would block more or all of its bots. They also confirmed the site accepted G2A Pay, Skrill, Neteller and paysafecard for either deposits or withdrawals.
Users can also fund a Fanobet account with real money, but in order to do so they need to create a new account and select “real money” as the payment method during registration.
Users that don’t choose this option will need to create a Bitcoin account if they do not already have one. Bitcoin already supports a small industry of sports books, including Cloudbet and Nitrogen Sports.
An admin for Fanobet wrote that the sports book believes Bitcoins constitute a payment option that’s safer than skins. A Florida circuit court ruling last month ruled that Bitcoin did not constitute money.
CSGOLounge bots disrupted despite changes in service
Fanobet’s approach differed from that of CSGOLounge, which introduced on Aug. 1 a new set of terms and conditions governing play, backdated to July 25.
Among the changes the new terms instituted were:
- Restricting users in 15 countries and six territories from using skins to bet on matches, or from even accessing match-betting data.
- Instituting the use of email-and-password accounts that users in applicable countries who wish to bet skins must first link to their Steam accounts.
- Instituting a responsible gaming self-exclusion policy by which bettors can request their account be shut down for a minimum of 6 months. Those who self-exclude will have balances returned to them.
- Vowing to apply for gambling licenses in restricted countries
The ToS also reaffirmed that bettors must be either 18 years of age or of legal gambling age in their home country, and that the use of VPNs to mask one’s geographic location was strictly prohibited.
Adjustments don’t evade bot banning
Oddly, the specific and proactive set of terms (Lounge is one of the few skin betting sites, for example, to employ geolocation services) did not fulfill Valve’s request to stop facilitating skin betting entirely.
Late Wednesday, reports surfaced on Reddit that CSGOLounge’s betting functionality was either being disrupted by trade bots or suspended at random.
Reports on Twitter indicated further disruption Thursday.
couldn't withdraw my skins for two weeks so now I lost them all. Thanks @csgolounge
— Zack (@ZackSmallzZ) August 11, 2016
CSGOLounge claims it is operated by a Costa Rican company called Lounge Dota Two SRL, and thus governed by the laws of Costa Rica.
Since all CS:GO skins, as well as the Steam trading system, are owned, controlled and governed by Valve, however, the laws of any applicable country may not ultimately matter in Lounge’s fight to offer the skin betting product it helped popularize throughout the world.