A digital entertainment lawyer has outlined the potential legal ramifications for two YouTuber personalities found to be owners of a Counter Strike: GO weapon-skin gambling site that they heavily promoted on their channels without proper disclosure.
Speaking to Eurogamer, Jas Purewal of Purewal & Partners LLP said: "Paid/sponsored content and disclosures by YouTubers/streamers is still a legal grey area, but actually there are evolving rules and the regulators are increasingly likely to respond to potential abuses of those rules."
He says that despite the US Federal Trade Commission (FTC) and UK Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) leading the way in this area of law, "the overall spirit of these evolving rules is very much one of transparency to consumers. So the more that influencers can follow that spirit the more likely they are to comply with the rules."
The other legal area concerns the CS:GO Lotto site and others like it, that create gambling environments but aren't subject to the same regulations and laws as traditional betting sites. CS:GO Lotto for example, only requires that its users are over the age of 13.
The unauthorised and unofficial sites capitalise on the lucrative markets for cosmetic items in Valve games like Counter Strike, Team Fortress 2 and Dota 2. These items have real world value and arrive randomly in drops players buy access to with keys through Valve's digital distribution platform Steam.
Regarding these sites, Purewal says: "There is no single answer here, since gambling laws vary from country to country (or even among states/regions). There have been suggestions that some gambling regulators may see it as qualifying as regulated gambling and some may not, but nothing official.
"What we can say is that in general terms online gambling is heavily regulated in most countries, and in some is outright illegal, so any online service that is held to be online gambling would have quite substantial legal requirements on them - which could vary from the requirement to obtain a gambling licence (in the UK) to being prohibited and even treated potentially as a criminal matter (in the US and some parts of mainland Europe)."
His comments follow revelations that YouTubers Trevor 'TmarTn' Martin and Tom 'ProSyndicate' Cassell were founders, president and vice president of CS:GO Lotto – a site they promoted with videos depicting them winning thousands of dollars-worth of skins. Following that revelation another streamer – Josh 'JoshOG' Beaver – admitted to owning equity in the site.