Valve crack down on Team Fortress 2 skin gambling

Valve have started cracking down more on sites using Team Fortress 2 [official site] items as chips in virtual gaming. Last year they focused on skin gambling with Counter-Strike: Global Offensive items, amidst scandals, more scandals, and lawsuits. Even the Washington State Gambling Commission got involved, ordering Valve to shut it all down. While Valve don’t run any of these gambling sites, see, the sites do rely on Steam. Now, Valve are shutting down accounts associated with TF2 sites.

Valve said in Friday’s announcement:

“More recently, some gambling web sites started leveraging TF2 items. Today we began the process of blocking TF2 gambling accounts as well. We recommend you don’t trade with these sites.”

I’ve explained in more depth so many times before but here’s a quick summary. So! Skin gambling sites use legitimate Steam channels and illegitimate trading bots to cash in and cash out items, in-between using them as chips for gambling from roulette to betting on professional matches. This isn’t allowed by Steam. Valve are trying to kill off the accounts used by bots, which are crucial to all this. Valve’s general counsel, the amazingly-named Karl Quackenbush, also sent out cease and desist letters to many sites. While that stopped some sites, even the quickest of Internet searches turns up plenty of active CS:GO skin gambling sites.

The fight continues, and apparently now includes TF2. Skin gambling with TF2 items was hardly unknown but I guess it’s taken off.

Oh! Whatever happened with the WA Gambling Commission? The Man wasn’t super keen on the idea of unregulated — and potentially underage — gambling. They had demanded Valve do what they could to stop skin gambling, seeking a response from Valve detailing their plans. Well, Valve responded (slightly late) and the most recent public declaration from the Commission, in October, said:

“Commission staff are reviewing this letter to determine if it is responsive to our request. The Gambling Commission will continue to evaluate its options regarding the violation of Washington’s gambling laws.”

So yes. If you gamble with virtuaguns and hats, don’t be surprised if something bad happens.


  1. Bullfrog says:

    They should just remove all the pointless shit from these games, that would stop these shady practices pretty quickly.

    • ThePuzzler says:

      Or they could continue to make tons of money from it. Hard choice.

      • Bullfrog says:

        Well quite.

        They must he too busy curating their digital storefront…oh no wait a minute.

    • Kollega says:

      Valve are so busy cracking down on illegal skin gambling now… with Valve time, I wonder if they’ll ever get to the point of cracking down on the slot-machine crates.

    • Crocobutt says:

      That’s the one thing that irked me – I never asked for those trading cards, or skin trading. And one can’t opt out from their pseudo-economy.
      “You’re in this whether you like it or not.”, shouted steam cards one day, forcibly filing up your inventory. It sounds almost like digital rape! :D

      • Ghostwise says:

        I think that this comment qualifies you to be President of the United States of America.

        • Crocobutt says:

          Be careful what you wish for – you may get another “Golden Age of Space Travel” (if one can pretend the Cold War space race was golden at all..) with me in charge.

        • LTK says:

          Inappropriate hyperbole aside, this is a known psychological exploit. If you give someone a few trading cards for free, then tell them they are part of a set that they can work to complete, they will be much more motivated to collect more cards than if you had just offered them to start a collection from scratch.

          Just possessing something that is part of a set makes us more motivated to complete it, out of some ingrained completionist drive. This is what makes Steam trading cards scheme shady: it manipulates users into caring about them by giving them away. You get a notification and everything.

          If it was totally opt-in I’d have no problem with it, but as it stands I cannot support it.

    • PseudoKnight says:

      Seriously. It’s killed two of their franchises for me. It’s just too profitable to take advantage of those vulnerable to collectible compulsion. Games have trained gamers to care about collectibles for decades. Now we have almost worthless data created to have value by a slot machine with weighted results for artificial scarcity. Want to solve the gambling issue? Remove artificial rarity. If these items are worth it, then they should be able to stand on their own anyway.

    • Premium User Badge

      Oakreef says:

      hear hear

      I’m not terribly happy that this game-item economy bullshit has made my steam account, which is something I have for the simple purpose of buying games, an ever greater target for hackers

    • zeep says:

      I wish. Great gameplay i loved at first got so infested with all sorts of crazy i stopped enjoying it. But yea, the money. Always the money.

  2. Jalan says:

    After the lotto was shuttered, I started to wonder if there was a growing fear toward this eventually being the next thing Valve made a move against.

  3. LTK says:

    It just hit me that skin gambling sounds like something out of a dystopian biopunk novel.

    • JB says:

      It really does. How many square centimetres of your hide do you want to bet on the outcome of the game/fight? *sharpens small, hook-bladed knife*

  4. shotgunblowtorch says:

    Living in a country founded on freedom and people can’t gamble for stupid virtual goods? Just another way to tell you how you can and can’t spend your own money. Another way for people in a position of power to thieve money from others.

    • jonfitt says:

      There is plenty of legal gambling in the US, but it is regulated.

      One big reason for regulating gambling is that untracked gambling is a perfect place for money laundering, swindling, and tax fraud.

      Even regulated gambling is also open to all of that to some degree, but you do what you can.

    • Buggery says:

      Money laundering and the potential to encourage underaged gambling is a pretty good reason to at least attempt some basic policing.