Is Underage Skin Gambling Addictive?

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Kid Playing Online Game

This controversial topic has attracted the attention of the media in recent years, with the rise of online gambling and online games. Many young people are getting involved in it, as some respective websites don’t have any age verification procedures. Skin gambling uses skins for video games, mostly for Counter-Strike: Global Offensive. Let’s investigate the phenomenon of skin gambling, its causes, and possible problematic consequences, and finally, let’s also explore some ways to solve the problem of underage gambling.

What Skins Are

Skins are in-game artifacts that can be won or purchased while playing online multiplayer video games. These items do not enhance the player’s force, intellect, or aim; they serve merely as decorations or cosmetics. Some are really expensive: because aside from being just a mere collection of pixels that doesn’t change the stats of the weapon, some of them are rarely encountered in the game, which makes them collectible items.

Such exclusive skins, aside from their aesthetic value, are often used to demonstrate the success, progress, and the high social status of the player. Thanks to their value as precious rarities, such items cost hefty amounts of in-game money. Another function of these items is that they serve as cryptocurrency: there is no direct exchange for real money on the game site, but a lot of gambling websites do accept them as bets. So, they serve mainly as chips.

Some of the most expensive CS: GO virtual items are the following:

The Origins of Skin Gambling

This type of gambling is mostly associated with CS: GO, as in 2013, this was the first game that allowed players to collect and trade weapon skins. This has changed the way people play the game: the in-game items became status symbols that were in very high demand, and people were eventually willing to pay real money for them. And although they don’t improve the player’s chances of winning, they cover weapons in patterns that help to distinguish players and make them recognizable during streams on services like Twitch. When a professional player uses some skin, it becomes popular and demanded by other players.

Valve, the company that developed CS: GO, controls the market of skins by releasing updates with new designs for the game every few months. It decides how many of each kind would be produced and in this way, it establishes their value. Valve also leaves a possibility for third-party websites to transfer them from Steam, a digital software distribution platform where all their games can be found, into gambling websites to be used as a virtual currency.

In order to effectively capitalize on the hype, a lot of websites allowed to bet with such virtual items they won while playing the game and then use them for Esports betting. Vloggers, modern influencers, started making skin gambling videos, where they played on rigged websites and showed how they won thousands of dollars there! And in 2016 alone, about $5 billion was wagered on them.

Problem with Underage Skin Gambling

Kid Sits on the Computer

Underage gambling is a problem, as many young people get addicted to it. Traditional gambling is regulated in most countries, and minors don’t have access to it. The websites for skin gambling don’t have any age verification procedures; to get access to gambling with skins that were bought for real money in-game, you just need to log in with your Steam account. There’s no problem if a minor earned these virtual items in-game and was lucky enough to get rare ones. But what happens if he or she doesn’t succeed in playing video games but still wants to shine with new weapons to look cool in the eyes of his or her friends?

Many minors get their parents’ credit cards and spend hundreds and thousands of dollars on this activity. This trait can start as early as 11 years old, and it can certainly have consequences in the long term. Teenagers can become compulsive gamblers without realizing. Gamblers who start early are simply not able to manage their (or rather, their parent’s!) money properly, and they don’t fully understand their responsibilities. Teenagers who can’t control their addiction are often sent by their parents to rehab centres.

Possible Solutions

Valve, the company that created the game, sent cease-and-desist letters to more than 40 gambling websites where they demanded they stop connecting to Steam for gambling purposes. But most of them ignored it. After all, this is a billion-dollar industry, and the lawyers of the minors who were harmed by skin gambling allege that Valve knowingly allowed, facilitated, supported, and sponsored illegal gambling.

Here are some actions that can be taken in order to improve the situation with underage skin gambling:

  • Prohibit it completely, a measure already taken in the Netherlands and France
  • Set limits to in-game purchases of virtual items for children, like China did
  • Don’t allow children to gamble on skin gambling websites
  • Introduce validation procedures, just like at trustworthy online casinos
  • Regulate skins as a virtual currency
  • Include skin betting within the jurisdiction of the gambling commission
  • Monetize computer games less

You May Also Find Interesting

  • What is video game skin?

A video game skin is a cosmetic finishing of the weapon in CS: GO, or for clothes or vehicles in other games. They don’t improve the players’ stats, nor do they offer you any kind of edge in terms of gameplay. The skins can be either won from over the course of playing the game, or else bought.

  • Is skin gambling illegal?

It’s actually legal, as its main currency has no monetary value in the game. The skins can be purchased with game credits: neither these credits nor the skins can be cashed out. Any cases concerning this type of gambling that were brought to court were eventually dismissed.

  • Can you still gamble CS: GO skins?

A couple of years ago, there was an update that slowed down the gambling process; so now players have to wait 7 days in order to manage their skins. And in the Netherlands, it’s not possible to trade them on Steam at all, due to legal action taken by the Dutch Gaming Authority.

  • How does skin gambling work?

It works in the following way: you gain skins in your online game by playing it through, or else via loot boxes that you can buy. Then you transfer your skins to third-party websites where you can wager your items in order to win ones from the other player. The winnings can be used at your Steam account to buy new games or in-game items or else cashed out on third-party sites.

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