UK Gambling Commission Calls Skins Betting Operators ‘Parasites’
Skins betting is “parasitic” according to the UK Gambling Commission and a danger to underage players.
The commission came out strongly against skins betting, which involves the trading and betting of virtual items used in eSports games such as Counter Strike: Global Offensive. The items—such as virtual weapons—are often traded for real cash and estimates have put the practice in the billions of dollars.
However, there are little or no controls on skins betting sites and underage players often participate. That makes the sites “a clear and present danger to players, including kids,” according to Sarah Harrison, chief executive of the commission.
“These unlicensed websites are a hidden form of gambling,” Harrison said in an official paper describing the commission’s findings on “virtual currencies, eSports and social gaming.” “They’re parasites feeding off popular video games, presenting a clear and present danger to players including kids. Our prosecution last month demonstrates that we won’t hesitate to take action.
“Mums and dads could be giving money to a child thinking that they are playing a computer game when in fact they are gambling and this is a real worry,” Harrison said. “Gambling on eSports with in-game-items is growing and we need to make sure all gambling is fair, safe, crime-free and protects the young and vulnerable.”
A survey by the commission found that 8.5 percent of respondents had gambled on an eSport event, and 90 percent of that group had participated in skins betting.
“Video game industry respondents agreed that betting on the outcome of eSports is just like betting on any other ‘event’,” the paper stated. “Even though such betting opportunities might currently be considered novel, the application of established online sports betting controls should mean it is not uniquely contentious in consumer protection terms.”
The commission was one of the first to prosecute on charges related to underage gambling with in-game items against owners of gambling site FUT Galaxy, who were found guilty under the UK Gambling Act.
The commission said that while there was no evidence of any direct commercial benefit to video games developers from the illegal gambling sites, it was “reasonable to infer” there is an indirect benefit because they are acting as a “de-facto central bank”.
“We are strongly of the view that the video games industry should not be, or perceived to be, passive to the exploitation of their player community by predatory third parties,” the commission said.