eSports, or competitive gaming, is a phenomenon that gains more traction and attracts more attention each year. Professional gamers and teams are slowly becoming as well-known as athletes, and high-profile matches are attracting an ever-increasing number of spectators each year. As you might expect, the rise of eSports has led to the rise of betting on them – dedicated operators, as well as mainstream sports betting websites, offer their users the possibility to wager on the outcome of such matches. This is all nicely done in a regulated environment.
But eSports betting has an evil stepbrother that’s quite popular, and quite dangerous at the same time. It’s usually referred to as “skin gambling”, and it represents everything online gambling opponents cite as the “dangers” of the industry.
What is skin gambling?
Skin gambling is basically what it sounds like: players can bet using the skins they obtain as rewards or buy through the Steam Marketplace on games of chance. What started out as a seemingly innocent form of eSports betting (wagering skins instead of cash on matches) has turned into something far more dangerous (at least until it’s unregulated). Players today can bet their skins – some of them with a significant monetary value – on games like coin tosses, wheels of fortune, and their likes.
Lack of regulation
Regulated online gaming venues like the Wintingo Casino, for example, have to observe a specific set of rules to be allowed to run. First of all, they have to implement an effective age filter to prevent underage gambling. No player under the age of 18 (21 in some countries) can register an account with the Wintingo, redeem Wintingo casino promotions, and play games for real money. Besides, the Wintingo has to work by a harsh set of rules imposed on it by its gaming license, rules regarding player protection, fairness, safety, and security. This makes it a fair and safe place to play online for a specific type of players seeking a specific type of games to play.
While the service offered by skin gambling websites is similar – with the exception of directly involving real money bets, the regulations concerning it do not exist. Even though CS:GO – one of the games with the most “skins” to go around – has a PEGI 18 rating, it’s played by a large number of minors, and they are very susceptible to the idea of obtaining skins easily through games of chance. Besides, the fairness of their games can also be questionable due to the lack of regulations enforcing it.
Skin gambling has rung a few alarms here and there, yet the phenomenon is mostly unchecked for the time being.
But it can’t cost me any money…
Yes, it can. Skins can be – and often are – bought by players for real money. Sometimes, the skins are bought by players specifically with betting in mind, and that can lead to serious issues. Polygon writes of a student losing $1,200 on such websites, and a 13-year-old losing thousands of dollars on similar games while using his parents’ credit card.