The following is a guest contribution from Roger R. Quiles, an attorney based in New York City. He received his undergraduate degree from Fordham University and his J.D. from the Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law at Yeshiva University.
This past weekend, Major League Gaming (“MLG”) held their first Counter Strike: Global Offensive tournament as part of X Games Aspen. Teams competed for X Games gold and $15,000 for first place. However, spectators had much more money on the line.
On the first day of the MLG X Games event, spectators placed bets totaling $4,477,231, as reported by CSGO Lounge. However, betting on Counter Strike is not as simple as the sports book in a Las Vegas casino. One of the most popular Counter Strike betting websites, CSGO Lounge allows users to place bets with in-game items on upcoming matches. All items are listed with specific values and the values of potential winnings are indicated. The sheer number and/or quality of the items bet on day one of the MLG X Games event totaled nearly $4.5 million.
The in-game items bet and won on CSGO Lounge are frequently resold on a number of websites for actual money. Although there are several steps to turning eSports betting winnings into actual cash, the process is fairly simple and substantial sums can be won. In fact, eSports betting can be so lucrative that there have been several match fixing scandals.
Most recently, allegations surfaced that a Counter Strike: Global Offensive match played in August 2014 between Team iBUYPOWER and NetCodeGuides.com was fixed. During that match, Team iBUYPOWER, an elite team which was heavily favored, performed oddly, laughing throughout their one-sided defeat. It was later learned that several large bets were placed just before the match by a player with strong ties to both of the competing teams. Those bets garnered more than $10,000 in winnings. Following an investigation by Valve, the developer for Counter Strike: Global Offensive, seven players were banned from participating in all future events it sponsors in connection with the match fixing. In a memo issued by Valve, the developer reiterated that professional players, their managers, and teams’ staff should not gamble on matches or provide information that would influence potential bets.
Counter Strike: Global Offensive, like many other eSports titles, has seen a large growth in popularity in the last year, even totaling 250,000 concurrent all-language viewers at X Games Aspen. The prospect of earning real money by betting on Counter Strike matches could maintain the game’s popularity, but the integrity of this eSport may be called into question if further match fixing scandals occur.