YouTube Gaming channels are rapidly becoming a major part of online entertainment. Whether it be Let’s Players, Review and Analysis, News Channels, or any number of variations, more and more people are making their living either playing or discussing games – and attracting legions of fans while they do so. However, one thing this rapidly-growing medium has so far lacked is a concrete set of laws and legislation behind it, and that might be set to change, thanks to an incident in Essex.
Craig Douglas, known on YouTube as Nepenthez, owns a website, FUTGalaxy, in which people can bet on FIFA matches (FIFA being a football videogame franchise, for those not in the know). Sites like Nepenthez’s are nothing new – in fact, videogame gambling sites in which users can bet online have been growing like weeds in the last few years, with games like Counter Strike: Global Offensive being frequent subjects for them.
These sites have always been skirting the edge of legality when it comes to gambling – particularly in encouraging minors to gamble. The Gambling Commission have decided that Nepenthez’s site does in fact break the law, and he along with cohort Dylan Rigby appeared at Birmingham Magistrates’ Court, where the case has been adjourned until the 14th of October.
So why is this such a seemingly grey area legally? Well, participants in these sorts of betting sites don’t tend to out-and-out bet money when they play. Rather they will bet using “skins” – alternate appearances or uniforms for their in-game characters. These skins are collector’s items in the various games they appear in, and like any collector’s item, accrue a monetary value off the face of that.
So, let’s assume you’ve got a fancy golden gun skin for Counter Strike or whatever, that would be worth five quid if you were to sell it to another player on a website. These betting sites invite you to add your skin to a pot of skins and bet on something (usually the outcome of an online match). If you win, you’ve just got yourself a whole pot of skins – skins that you could then go on to sell for real money.
For now, actions like this are not regulated at all, and the argument of whether it constitutes actual gambling is still contested. However, after a case like this, and a similar incident in America months ago with youtube user TmarTn, it won’t be long before more hard-line laws are drafted up on this stuff.