In recent years, Valve has been on an active spree against CS2 skin gambling sites, issuing takedown and cease and desist orders against them. It’s an entirely unregulated practice that effectively goes against Valve’s Codes of Conduct, but regardless of those facts, it remains a popular betting activity. However, almost every skin betting site out there is inherently unsafe, and you run the risk of losing your valuable CS2 skins – and if you do, there’s essentially nobody to blame but yourself.
Recently, other platforms aside from Valve have been cracking down on those publicising CS2 skin gambling. For instance, Twitch issued a change to its Terms of Service in July 2023 that prohibited the promotion of CS skin betting sites. It’s a question of morality, as many users of these sites are underaged and ill-informed, and Twitch doesn’t want to contribute to that issue.
So, if you’re going to bet CS2 skins, think again – and use some of the alternatives we’ve outlined below.
What Are the Best Alternatives to CS Skin Gambling Sites?
Try out these real-money CS2 gambling sites instead and rest assured that your finances are responsibly invested:
Real Money CS2 Gambling Sites Have Always Been Better
Initially, the mass appeal of CS skin betting was driven by a few glaring factors:
- Ease of access: It was always a simple process when signing up for these sites. Although users needed to provide access to their ‘Steam URL’, they were never asked for sensitive personal information.
- Diversity: For the most part, skin betting sites varied wildly, offering everything from match betting to casino-style gambling. It’s this broad appeal that contributed to the market’s immediate success.
- Worldwide Market: Players from the U.S. and other jurisdictions where sports betting is not regulated could freely participate, circumventing important laws and rules.
- No real-money deposits: By betting skins, users bypassed the sometimes arduous process of making a real-money deposit on a gambling site.
Although, with those positive points in mind, there was one major drawback to the practice. When taking part in CS skin gambling, you were doing so in an unregulated environment. By doing this, you subjected yourself to a string of vulnerabilities and risks.
Conversely, we can look at esports cash betting sites, which operate in a much more secure and regulated environment:
- Safeguards are set up to ensure personal and financial protection.
- Users must be able to verify their age before placing wagers. By contrast, some CS skin gambling sites did not require age verification, opening the door for minors to place wagers.
- A site’s ability to operate is not dependent on a third party like Valve — which can freeze operator accounts at its discretion.
- Operators have established a measure of trust via reliable payouts, 24/7 access to funds and customer support, and a dearth of server outages and unexpected site shutdowns.
- Employees, or anyone connected to the operator, cannot place wagers on or have advanced knowledge of the outcome of an event.
Inside Valve’s Crackdown on CS Skin Gambling Sites
As early as July 2017, Valve began issuing cease and desist letters, targeting 23 skin wagering sites that used Steam to conduct activities it said violated the API’s terms of service. This is behaviour that continued long into 2023, with Valve actively pursuing more sites as they cropped up.
Why did Valve crack down on CS skin betting?
From the outset, CS skin gambling was a small and seemingly innocuous part of the industry. To put it simply, it flew under the radar. Every day, countless gamblers could begin on their CS2 skin gambling path for free, using such items as a Counter-Strike casino code. Unfortunately, the ease of access and lack of regulation meant that many underage gamblers (and of-age gamblers) were hooked… Fast.
But when the industry came to prominence, which it did in a big way (an article by Bloomberg states that the number of users grew 1,500 per cent over two years), Valve was presumably forced to take notice. In December of 2017, the BBC published a comprehensive report on CS2 skin betting, stating that, ‘children as young as 11 were introduced to gambling’. In the report, it was revealed that:
- 45% of 11 – 16 year olds were ‘aware of skin betting’.
- 11% of 11 – 16 year olds had placed bets using in-game items.
Valve’s action was likely spurred on by a series of scandals involving four different skin gambling sites during the summer of 2016. Two of those sites’ owners were found to have wagered and won on their own sites using house money, without disclosing their ownership position. A third paid a sponsored player more than $100,000 to promote the site while it admittedly rigged the outcomes of his rolls to severely increase his chances of winning. A fourth site’s owners were directly linked to a professional Conter-Strke franchise, which Valve ostensibly prohibits.
A class-action lawsuit filed by a CS:GO player in June 2017, signifying that Valve facilitated the growth of an illicit online gambling industry, was probably the proverbial icing on the cake.
Predicting the Future of Legit CS Skin Gambling Sites
As of 2024, the argument still pushes on. There are plenty of supporters of CS skin gambling sites, but for the most part, it still remains a turbulent area. To this day, Valve still doesn’t openly support the practice, but it seems there’s less of a tenacious push to have the platforms closed down. For example, right now, users can jump onto platforms like CSGO Empire, a popular website that serves those looking to engage in CS skin gambling.
Bizarrely, CSGO Empire has been operating since 2016, when Valve first began the stalwart crackdown on skin gambling operators. However, CSGO Empire’s mission is to change the entire portion of the industry that remains unregulated, stating:
As you may know, CSGO betting doesn’t have a good reputation. For the most part, CSGO gambling sites have been non-regulated, non-transparent, in many cases illegal, and worst out of all — fraudulent. Our mission is to fix that. CSGO Empire is widely known for its stance on fairness and transparency. We are one of the first licensed and regulated skin gambling websites.
As more skin gambling websites take extensive action to become as legitimate as possible, we can say that the future looks bright. Although, that is a tentative brightness, and at any point, all it’ll take is one rogue operator to throw the entire practice into disarray.
In April of 2021, a Twitch streamer was banned indefinitely from the platform for promoting CS skin gambling. This streamer subsequently raised a case against Twitch, suing for damages, and remarkably, he won his case. He was banned in 2016, sued Twitch in 2018, and in 2021, successfully claimed damages for the loss of his 1.3 million followers and 16,000 subscribers. However, while the streamer sought a $35 million claim, he was in the end compensated with just $21,000.
Twitch stood firm against CS skin gambling, stating that:
While we regret the procedural failings related to Mr. Varga’s termination in 2016, he repeatedly violated Twitch’s Community Guidelines and exposed our community to harmful content. We absolutely stand by our deecision to terminate his account, and he will not be allowed back onto the service.
A Brief History of Counter-Strike Skin Gambling Sites
The introduction of weapon skins sparked a growing interest in the CS2 betting scene. Valve, the creator of Counter-Strike, launched an open market for community members to create items with developer tools. Community votes determine which items are introduced to the game. It’s worth establishing immediately that this entire structure is supported in its entirety by Valve, and it isn’t connected directly to skin gambling practices.
Players receive items and cases through random drops, and cases can be opened for $2.50 to generate skins within the game. Market sales determine item values by supply-demand interactions, giving each item a value based on its rarity, aesthetic desirability, and wear. Essentially, CS facilitates currency-exempt gambling by using virtual capital. The majority of people who gamble often play Counter-Strike, but also actively follow streams on Twitch.
Streamers have, in the past, grown the popularity of sites solely by gambling while on-air. So, the demand for valuable items grew Counter-Strike item betting beyond the scope of competitive games.
Let’s take a look at a brief breakdown of the most popular Counter-Strike skin gambling services and platforms:
- CSGO Lounge – the first betting service to take the community by storm, started in 2011.
- CSGO Jackpot Games – community gambling, introduced in 2015.
- CSGO Blackjack – one of the first Counter-Strike casino games that used skins, founded in 2015.
- CSGO Coin Flip sites – starting with CSGO Wild in 2015, growing to include CSGO Double later.
- CSGO Roulette – became popular on stream and used random number generators.
- CSGO dice games – gained popularity around March 2016 through a diverse number of games.
How CS2 Skin Gambling Works
First, let’s explain what a ‘skin’ is. To put it simply, it’s a digital cosmetic item, used in-game to alter the appearance of the player’s character, weapons, or equipment. There are hundreds of different skins, and in CS2 , they’re categorised by style, condition, and age.
There are several ways for a player to acquire these skins. In Counter-Strike 2, players can acquire skins by:
- Receiving them during gameplay.
- Receiving them as a promotional giveaway (often around major CS2 events).
- Trading with other players.
- Purchasing skins on a variety of marketplaces.
In many cases, the best CS2 players will pay extortionate amounts to acquire the rarest and most sought-after skins – but those skins won’t be gambled away.
How Do People Bet with Skins?
Let’s imagine a skin is a token that can be used for betting – a casino chip if you will.
Like a casino chip, a CS2 skin can be traded between the player and the house. That basic functionality allows skins to serve as a de facto currency that can power basically any type of gambling product you can imagine. Here’s how it works:
- Players “deposit” a skin at a skin betting site (popular types of sites include sportsbooks, lotteries, roulette, and coin flips) by transferring the skin to the skin betting site.
- They gamble using their deposited skins (or in some sort of internal currency that the player receives in exchange for their skin).
- If they win, they’re paid in additional skins, which they “cash out” by requesting that the skin betting site transfer skins back to the player.
Once players have skins in their Steam account, they can:
- Leave the skins dormant in their inventory.
- Use the skins to change the appearance of their weapons.
- Trade skins with other players.
- Sell skins on the Steam marketplace for Steam credit (not cash) that can be used to buy other skins and games via Steam.
- Exchange skins for cash on third-party sites outside of Steam.
Here’s a visual explanation of the process:
Note that not all video games with skins or other virtual items allow those items to be transferred between players. Among popular esports, CS2 and Dota 2 are unique in allowing the easy movement of virtual items between accounts.