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Jeff Ifrah and Other Esports Lawyers Dissect CSGO Gambling Legal Issues in Reddit AMA

CSGO has a gambling problem. Valve is involved in a suit over whether CSGO’s key-and-crate loot system and the accompanying skin market should be defined and regulated as gambling, while a handful of YouTubers have been exposed as the owners of a skin gambling site they promoted. Another confessed that his gambling wins were staged in conjunction with the betting site.

This has prompted airmchair lawyers to sit up straight and start dispensing their own dubious wisdom. What counts as gambling? When should we fire up the electric chair? I’m as guilty as anyone.

Thankfully, three real lawyers—Bryce Blum, Ryan Morrison and Jeff Ifrah—held an AMA on Reddit to dissect the key issues. They often disagree, which should tell you that whatever lies ahead for betting in CSGO, it won’t be a smooth ride.

So, is skin gambling actual gambling in the eyes of the law?

…”In our work,” Ifrah (/u/ifrahlaw) contends, “the question is whether the skins are a ‘thing of value.’ Generally, in traditional gambling cases, this means cash or chips. There is a recent court decision from Maryland—Mason v. Machine Zone—that stressed the distinction between virtual things of value and things of value with ‘real world’ value. I think this case will be instructive in the future. Skins, even with secondary markets, hold their value because of the gaming, which puts it squarely in the virtual world. If the skins are virtual things of value, using them for gambling would be OK under most laws.”

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