Skin Betting Scandal Gets Deeper, As Gambler Said He Kept $91,000 From Site He Exposed

Written By Will Green on June 20, 2016 - Last Updated on January 22, 2018

[toc]A former promotional partner of skin gambling website CS:GO Diamonds said on Sunday that he kept the $91,000 the site paid him for his advertising work, despite first partaking in, and then exposing, the website’s purposefully deceptive roll-outcome scandal.

‘I fucked up’

The revelation came during The Richard Lewis Show on Twitch between the eponymous host and former professional Counter-Strike: Global Offensive player and streamer, m0E, whose real name is Mohamad Assad. Both men worked alongside each other on the TBS desk as recently as this month, broadcasting the first three weeks of competition in Turner’s CS:GO league, the ELEAGUE.

“I fucked up. I fucked up big time,” Assad told Lewis, who wore the hat of both loyal friend (“I’ve got nothing but love for you”) and scrutinizing interviewer (“I think you’ve done gone fucked up”). Assad said he chose to discuss his side of the story with Lewis in part because of their friendship.

“It’s my fault for lending my brand to a site that already had these intentions, and that I somehow convinced myself it was OK to use house money this way,” Assad said.

He added that while he regretted forming the initial partnership with CS:GO Diamonds, he did not regret revealing the site’s intentions, which also implicated him. The interview also called into question the need for regulation of the entire esports betting industry, which Narus Advisors and Eilers & Krejcik Gaming estimate will reach $7.42 billion in handle in 2016.

How CS:GO Diamonds works

Players who wager on CS:GO Diamonds convert their CS:GO skins to “diamonds” and then use that virtual currency to bet on variable odds outcomes based on the rolls of digital dice. One diamond is roughly equivalent to $1 in skins value, while the average skin is worth just under $10 on third-party markets, according to an ESBR analysis.

Assad, who has over 500,000 followers on Twitch, would stream himself playing CS:GO Diamonds in order to help popularize the site with his following. The more frequently the controversial streamer appeared to win on the site, the more the site appeared like an exciting place to wager, which in turn brought in more business.

But the site released a statement on June 13 saying that it made a mistake when, in order to help Assad win with the aforementioned frequency, it supplied him with advance knowledge of the outcomes of his dice rolls, more or less assuring him a winning outcome. 

CS:GO Diamonds, figuring it could get out ahead of the curve, said it was prompted to make the statement because Assad threatened in a tweet to “expose” some malfeasance the site was engaging in if it didn’t allow him to cash out 26,000 diamonds. As it turns out, the malfeasance ran both ways.

Assad gives one-sided exposure of Diamonds

Following CS:GO Diamonds’ statement, Assad exposed the site anyway, releasing a selective conversation log between himself and one or more of the site’s founders that purported to show a representative from the website coercing him into being told the outcomes of rolls in advance. Assad’s conversation log showed him exhibiting some skepticism regarding the idea.

That skepticism didn’t stop Assad from engaging in the activity, however, and ultimately asking for roll outcomes himself. He said he never tried to withdraw any diamonds from the website because he considered it house money, for his artificial gambling purposes only. That account appears to contrast, however, with his apparent intent to withdraw $26,000 in diamonds on June 12. He told Lewis the $26,000 represented money owed to him from affiliates, and was not from his playing on the site with house money.


Assad, Diamonds offer different accounts of using roll outcomes

The gregarious streamer seemed to strike alternating tones of contrition and defiance regarding his complex role in the scandal, which is the latest to ensnare a website doing business in the heavily unregulated, multi-billion global skin gambling market. 

When pressed by Lewis as to why he didn’t return the undisclosed amount of money that CS:GO Diamonds paid him, Assad maintained that he was still legitimately owed the money for doing agreed-upon advertising work for the website. In a brief burst of moral relativism, Assad said, “What I did was wrong, but me leaking this is more right than wrong.”

He also said that he only used the advance knowledge of roll outcomes when his wagering balance was particularly low and he needed to be “refreshed” in order to keep playing.

CS:GO Diamonds rebutted that position while the show was still airing in a series of tweets that alleged Assad was twisting the truth. The had engaged in a sponsorship deal with Assad earlier this year in which he would cast his wagering for over 100 hours a month in exchange for 10 percent of the site’s monthly profits.

The website maintained on Sunday that it cut ties with Assad because he wasn’t achieving that quota. It also said Lewis had not contacted CS:GO Diamonds for its side of the story.

Esports fans have insatiable demand for wagering

Assad repeatedly referenced a demand from fans to see him wager, and justified his need to keep streaming himself winning and losing large sums of diamonds because it was what fans wanted to see.

When asked repeatedly by Lewis if he had a gambling problem, Assad, a noted gambling enthusiast who is prone to outbursts of extreme emotion whenever he wins or loses, said he didn’t consider skins gambling a form of wagering because the virtual items in his eyes weren’t worth real money.

While that is technically true, a robust third-party market allows for relatively easy conversion of skins to liquid cash.

Do I have an addiction to gambling on CS:GO sites? Yes,” Assad told Lewis, noting that skins gambling is “all entertainment.” He admitted that he did ask the site for roll outcomes, but maintained that every time he did so he was attempting to ensure he could continue his entertaining stream, and thus, his advertising obligations for the site.

I’m kind of trapped in this thing where I have to keep playing,” he said. “When gambling stops becoming entertaining for the viewer, that’s when I’ll stop gambling. It’s all about to me what the viewer wants to see.”

Diamonds not dead, but Assad’s ELEAGUE return chances might be

The atmosphere of the interview felt at once conciliatory and combative, and the product was akin to ‘NBA on TNT’ host Ernie Johnson being chosen to cross-examine fellow commentator Charles Barkley. At one point, Lewis told his former Turner colleague that the chances of Assad rejoining him on the ELEAGUE desk at some point later in the season were slim-to-none because the network, “can’t be near any sort of gambling.”

Assad partially justified his exposing of CS:GO Diamonds’ scheme by saying it would decimate the site’s popularity. He went as far as to characterize the site as “dead” and no longer a part of the CS:GO community. This past Saturday, the site accepted nearly 18,000 wagers.

Assad, a decade-long esports industry veteran, called the organizers behind CS:GO Diamonds “scammers” and “kids” and alleged that its founders made over a million dollars a month. He also described a sense of unawareness as to how artificially manufacturing excitement out of fake gambling wins could be deleterious to the industry.

This whole skin thing is still kind of so new, you don’t really know the red flags,” he said. “I don’t mind representing a site at all. Representing the right site is the problem, I’m finding.”

“When I go to zero balance, that’s where they come in and say, ‘hey, we’ll give you money to keep playing on our site, we don’t care what you do with it,’ because they know eventually I’m going to lose it.

ELEAGUE handle nears $33 million through four weeks

Skins wagering also takes place outside of casino-style games or the dice-rolling games like the one featured on CS:GO Diamonds. Skins are primarily wagered on the outcomes of matches in the very esports (largely, CS:GO) that skins originate from. CS:GO is by far the dominant title in the skins wagering market, and is responsible for roughly 85 percent of all skins gambled on competitive matches.

Several of those competitive matches are in the ELEAGUE, at the broadcast desk of which Assad formerly worked alongside Lewis (Assad was scheduled to leave the show before news of the scandal broke). An ESBR analysis estimates bettors have wagered a total of over 3 million skins on the 60 ELEAGUE matches that have taken place thus far, equating to a nearly $33 million handle for the CS:GO league in 2016. That figure could approach $100 million by the league’s end later this summer.

Fantasy esports characterized as gambling

At one point, Assad criticized his rival Thorin — another caster and CS:GO expert and who now appears in Assad’s place on Friday TBS ELEAGUE broadcasts — for being sponsored by AlphaDraft. Assad said that website’s fantasy esports product was also gambling, intimating that if it was OK for a gambling site to sponsor Thorin, it should be OK for a gambling website to sponsor him.

AlphaDraft is owned by daily fantasy sports giant FanDuel and also sponsored an online show that Lewis formerly hosted with Thorin. The DFS industry vehemently maintains that its fantasy products do not constitute gambling, but instead are skill-based, and therefore do not run afoul of most state gambling laws.

When AlphaDraft founder Todd Peterson and others were asked at a recent panel at the Fantasy Sports Trade Association Summer Conference about the dangers and future of skins betting, the panel clammed up and didn’t answer the question. One panelist afterword told ESBR that he wasn’t allowed to even say “the b-word” on stage.

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