[Update: Okay! So, gambling site CSGOLotto was blocked by an overzealous volunteer moderator rather than by high order from Valve, another community mod has explained, and the warning is now removed. However! Since this all kicked off, a YouTuber with almost half a million subscribers has admitted he was paid in valuable skins for undisclosed promotional videos faking big wins in a different weapon skin lottery. Ooh there's a lot of shady business going on all right.]
Let's skip to the takeaway message then we can fill in the details: never gamble with your imaginary guns if you're not prepared to lose everything or be made to look like a mug. Okay, so! Valve do not endorse the sites which use Counter-Strike: Global Offensive [official site] weapon skins as a currency for gambling but they do at least mostly tolerate them. This week, however, they have taken the rare step of warning against one particular skin lottery after it was discovered that famous YouTubers who made videos praising it were the site's owners.
Time to briefly explain the confusing Counter-Strike economy again! Global Offensive has skins which can make weapons look nice or ghastly (see above for ghastly). The wonders of the Steam Community Market stuff means folks can also do swapsies or sell them for Steam store credit. Some mighty trusting folks sell skins outside Steam for real money. They're also used as chips for gambling by sites tapping into Steam accounts through legitimate channels opened by Valve. The famous CSGO Lounge, for example, lets folks bet skins on the results of competitive matches to win more skins.
Which brings us to CSGOLotto. It runs a lottery where players contribute skins to a pool then one entrant wins the lot (minus a cut for the house). And, as our pals Eurogamer explain in great details, the site has turned out to be partially owned by famous YouTubers 'TmarTn' and 'Syndicate' (how famous? over 13 million subscribers between them) who've made videos promoting CSGOLotto without clear disclosure statements. These include videos with not-at-all-suspicious titles like "WINNING BIG $$$$!! (CS:GO Betting)" and "HOW TO WIN $13,000 IN 5 MINUTES (CS:GO Betting)".
I won't get into how people discovered all that and the denials, admittances, and deletions - go read Eurogamer's report - but, in short, Steam now warns people about CSGOLotto. Trying to log into the site, which goes through legitimate Steam channels to access your items, now shows this warning:
You can ignore that warning and continue if you want but, y'know, I'd think twice. The warning does suggest it could've been community moderators who did this, mind, rather than Valve directly - but if so Valve haven't removed it.
CS:GO gambling has always been a prickly issue, reviled by some folks, enjoyed by others, and even leading to permanent bans for match-fixing. It seems to be getting more negative attention than usual lately, though. One player recently filed a lawsuit against Valve, claiming that because they sell 'keys' to unlock weapons and take a cut of Community Market sales, they're profiting from illegal gambling.
Say, reader dear, how about you - have you gambled with your CS gun skins at all?