Counter-Strike gambling YouTubers could be "looking at real jail time"

What would you do if got caught promoting a highly profitable Counter-Strike: Global Offensive gambling website without disclosing the fact that you owned it? Well, Trevor "TmarTn" Martin found himself in that situation earlier this week, and he chose to post an apology video where he sits in the foyer of his expensive house and makes a sad face at his dog. And then delete it. Thankfully, whenever YouTube closes a window, it opens another and immediately re-uploads the video on another account.

"My connection to CSGO Lotto has been a matter of public record since the company was first organized in December of 2015, however I do feel like I owe you guys an apology," Martin says in the video, referring to the articles of incorporation, I guess (because everybody watching YouTube videos definitely checks the articles of incorporation for all mentioned businesses). "I am sorry to each and every one of you who felt like that was not made clear enough to you. I truly honestly hope you guys give me an opportunity to earn your trust back."

"I believe that every game offered on CSGO Lotto has been legitimate, and I'm committed to making sure that that remains true."

A quick primer in case you're not familiar: CS:GO lets players trade and sell in-game items like weapon skins for real money, some of which can go for thousands of dollars. Using this system and tools from Valve, external sites like CSGO Lotto can set up lotteries and other games of chance where players pool, win, and lose items with significant monetary value. Legal systems around the world are still conflicted on whether this fits for regulatory purposes, but functionally speaking, it's gambling.

Back to Martin and his dog: it's impossible to say whether his videos were rigged, since we can't see the admin side of CSGO Lotto. It doesn't really matter, though: the fact that Martin and CSGO Lotto co-owner Tom "ProSyndicate" Cassell ran the site and could theoretically change the odds to win big for their undisclosed advertisements makes it ethically unacceptable. Even less acceptable than feeding their audience undisclosed advertisements for a site they semi-secretly own, I mean.

Deceiving adults is bad enough. But when you consider that kids make up a huge portion of the audience for these videos, and that CSGO Lotto only has a bog standard "You must be 18 or older" checkbox to register (the privacy agreement even said "13 or older"), it gets even worse. Here's the general attitude toward the situation rendered, very appropriately, as a YouTube meme.

Polygon reports Martin and Cassell have been added to a lawsuit against Valve for enabling and profiting from the CS:GO gambling scene, though only each party's (vast) wealth is at risk from that. New York attorney Ryan Morrison, who focuses his case work on eSports and gaming, told ESPN that won't be the end of it.

"What this did do, which is in my opinion wonderful, is really open up the eyes of people who can put criminal charges forward," Morrison said, because when attorneys general see these high profile civil cases and controversies pop up they're more likely to pursue them. "So instead of this just being, oh no, ProSyndicate with his $70 million house is going to lose $1 million, this is instead going to be all these people are very much looking at real jail time." 

Really, Morrison says, this could just be the beginning: "We have proof a lot of [YouTubers who post videos of CS:GO gambling sites] actually own those websites. Most of the others were a little more intelligent about how they hid it, so they're using shell companies or they're using companies based in Antigua or all these other countries. But everything has a paper trail and everything comes back to these people. The ones kind of laughing at ProSyndicate and TmarTn right now saying, 'Haha, you didn't cover your tracks properly'? They're about to be in for a rude awakening as well."

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Connor Sheridan

I got a BA in journalism from Central Michigan University - though the best education I received there was from CM Life, its student-run newspaper. Long before that, I started pursuing my degree in video games by bugging my older brother to let me play Zelda on the Super Nintendo. I've previously been a news intern for GameSpot, a news writer for CVG, and now I'm a staff writer here at GamesRadar.