The recent rise in eSports betting has prompted the UK Gambling Commission to look into the legality of gambling on professional gaming events.
While the UK already has laws in place that govern how gambling and competitions work, including lotteries, eSports betting has stayed off the radar due to its underground culture and fast turnaround.
The Commission recently released a discussion paper that details its concerns about eSports betting, and how certain forms of currency used in the betting are not currently recognised by law.
In-game “skins” and weapons — items that can be purchased by players — are being traded, sold and used as currency in online betting rings, particularly for online shooter Counter-Strike: Global Offensive (CS:GO). While these sites are easy to set up, they disappear almost as quickly, making them tough to track.
Australia and the US have already moved to counter the rise in these sites, particularly in their accessibility to minors. As eSports betting is generally unregulated globally, almost anyone of any age can bet on events.
The UK meanwhile is looking to define and regulate it, so as to keep better track of the different forms of currency used.
“Where ‘skins’ are traded or are tradable and can therefore act as a de facto virtual currency and facilities for gambling with those items are being offered, we consider that a licence is required,” the Commission wrote.
Interestingly, even though skins and weapons aren’t explicitly mentioned in UK gambling laws, they are not exempt and should therefore be classified as currency and come under the license.
The Commission’s interest in eSports gambling comes weeks after two prominent CS:GO YouTubers were found to have been running “lotto” sites for the game, in which visitors could pay small fees for the potential of landing expensive items.
CS:GO developer Valve has issued a number of takedown notices, but a number of these betting sites remain online.
“Taking action against those offering facilities for gambling without a licence has always been a priority. Taking action against anyone offering facilities for gambling to children and young people is a particularly high priority,” the Gambling Commission wrote.
The Commission has written to more than 100 unlicensed online gambling websites in recent months demanding they stop servicing British customers. A number of those sites offer eSports betting and “lotto” games.