Counter Strike: Global Offensive – 18 Years of Headshots and Much Embarrassing Betting Scandal
As the term competitive gaming bashfully reared up its head at a crawl in a time dominated by quick-paced first person shooters (FPSs) such as Quake and Unreal Tournament, hardly anyone could have imagined the splash Counter-Strike, a modification for Half-Life, would have had on gaming as we know it today. With the arrival of Counter-Strike, its inherent realism and skill-intense battles sent ripples throughout the landscape of the genre. Today, Counter-Strike: Global Offensive (CS:GO) is a core competitive title that spurs the newly-fangled phenomenon called electronic sports and its sibling – online betting on eSports.
Prior to investing ourselves in the ins and outs of legality and morality of electronic sports CS:GO betting, let us have a gander at what today’s market of sportsbooks has in store for unseasoned and experienced punters alike.
CS:GO Betting Sites – Big Shots and Big Money
Eilers & Krejcik Gaming, a research firm, estimated that more than 3 million people have wagered game skins to the tune of $2.3 billion, betting on the outcome of eSports matches in 2015. These stonking numbers plainly demonstrate the clout video gaming and electronic sports have come to command today.
Counter-Strike: Global Offensive, known simply as CS:GO, has been adopted by classic licensed bookies who introduced eSports betting on their websites. Those sportsbooks operate under rather lax terms in the better part of Canada, Europe and Australia. They still have some odds to tackle, faced with the intractability of the US legal system and its hardline stance on gambling. With an abundance of tournaments and leagues readily available to gambling buffs, bookies have begun offering betting odds for the majority of those:
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- ESL Pro League Season 6
- Esports Championship Series 1
- The Intel Extreme Masters
The 2016 edition of the ESL Pro League event had $250,000 in prize money, setting up the scene for some intense fighting between team well bent on bagging a tidy profit. The ESL Pro League is just one in the line of many events commanding hefty prize pools for those who distinguish themselves.
With such huge amount of money in circulation, CS:GO gambling has easily piqued the fancy of those of a more risk-taking turn of mind. A mounting viewership for electronic sports has been a contributing factor and an essential element of the spreading of betting on Counter-Strike and electronic sports as a whole, Gamespot has pointed out in a piece.
Bookies and Their Ilk, Counter-Strike and CS:GO Gambling Sites
Bookmakers have been quick to cotton on to this new trend. What is true for real-world sports is true for competitive video games – people like to bet on the outcome of matches. As a result, a growing number of sportsbooks have been carefully treading the murky waters of gambling legality.
Betting on Counter-Strike has been pliant to outside factors and much like in the dawn of the game, the community has been driving certain tendencies. While the an increased viewership is a boon to sportsbooks to be offering betting on live matches, a new beast has flashed its teeth.
The introduction of inventory items, and most specifically skins, led to a thriving gambling market. To my mind, skins are a double-edged sword that helps novices break into the business of placing wagers, but also may pose some uneasy questions as to legality and role model for teenagers who are one of the better-known segment that populates the game’s arenas.
To better understand the dimensions CS:GO betting via skins has taken, consider the data published by SportsIM, a sports gambling watchdog, which has reported that the average match fetches up to $134,000 in skin bets. In March 2016, the match-up between Luminosity and Fnatic drew nearly $1.2 million in Counter-Strike bets.
In this vortex of uncertainties, we can clearly make out two underlying trends:
- Betting skins and make-believe items in Counter-Strike is here to stay;
- Other types of bets will multiply.
All concern about legality aside, betting by via in-game items is not a bad way of learning the ropes of Counter-Strike gambling as a whole. We can compare this with a bogus Forex account – the money you trade are not real, but the statistics that drive owners to make decisions are, and they are updated in real-time. After all, a nifty little way of adding some mint items to one’s inventory.
Let us have a closer look at the various type of bets on Counter-Strike: Global Offense (CS:GO).
Full Metal Jacket: Wagering on Counter-Strike: Global Offense
Up to now, we have provided a historical context for the game, looked at how electronic sports have come to be and how sportsbooks, ignominiously called “bookies”, have embraced this emerging and still untapped market bristling with potential.
Real money betting on CS:GO
A number of bookies are offering real money odds on CS:GO outcomes. Perhaps the most exciting type of bets, punters are advised to familiarize themselves with the game prior to plunging headlong into the unprobed depths of gambling. Understanding the game may be an essential part to placing an auspicious bet. Game mechanics here may play a smaller role in determining which way a wager should go.
However, consider the simple fact that knowing the layout of a map a match-up is being played on, along with the map’s inherent features, which will undoubtedly favor one side under set condition and disadvantage the opponent, can be helpful.
Naturally, the players’ performance also proves a key factor that drives decisions, but at the top level, odds between teams even out, and through the medley of uncertainties, the most prescient of bettors will make their calls.
The market for weapon skins
Gambling in Counter-Strike is diverse. The onslaught of community-created weapon skins and the hefty price tags some of those command have made punters ogle the prospect with more than good intentions in mind. All joking aside, betting with skins works much in the same way real money betting does, only instead of using currency of any given denomination, users flog weapon skins.
Again, the advantage of such style of gambling is that it helps the hesitant newcomer test their perspicacity. Websites such as CS:GO Lounge and Vulcun offer ample opportunity for this type of betting.
The case of CS:GO Lounge may excite particular interest insofar as the website has been reportedly abetting match-fixing. Valve had to step in and ban seven players from competitive CS:GO events, stressing the importance that players should refrain from inside trading or placing wagers on events they participate in.
CS:GO also has a thorny problem to unravel where legality is concerned. The portal operates freely in the United States, however a fair warning goes to those local enthusiasts who decide to bet. Sports betting in the US and inherently electronic sports betting, CS:GO wagers included, is prohibited. CS:GO does not utilize any software to impose geographical restrictions on its users, but reminds people to abide to local gambling laws.
Wheel of fortune betting
Jackpot betting detracts from the convoluted decision-making process and boils down to simply revving up one’s own bet in terms of value. The way this way of betting in Counter-Strike operates is, users are asked to place their skins which account to a certain percentage of the wheel’s prize pool. Assuming the total value of the wheel is $100, then placing bets worth $20 will yield a 20% chance of bettors to come on the receiving end of goodies.
CS:GO alternative betting
In our Call of Duty and League of Legends pieces, we have discussed the viability of an alternative mode of betting. Known as fantasy leagues, some esports bookies offer punters to join a fray, a rather made up one. Only half, though. Until recently Vulcun had a running fantasy esports betting league which featured CS:GO betting as well as many other. The intriguing part with this type of betting is that users are allowed to pick from a pool of players and bang together real team granting them access to a variety of neat little prizes on the off chance they won. However, stringent regulations had discredited the league and led to Vulcun’s decision to shut down its fantasy division in a bid to spare itself the hassle.
Pondering the legality of it all, there is much merit in supporting either sides. While the majority of bookies and skin betting websites which handle Counter-Strike betting are trying to promote and invest in the sector, other players have emerges. In fact, a fledgling and growing segment of bookies is trying to establish legal betting on electronic sports. Unikrn a Seattle-based eSports gambling company, has commented that competitors who operate without toeing legislation might find themselves in a bind.
Be that as it may, legislation may find itself deep at sea with prosecuting betting with skins as it is confined to those parts of the Internet which are seldom navigated by anyone with a penchant for justice. Still, some gaming lawyers estimate that Valve may be legally vulnerable. In recent news, Forbes wrote about CS:GO attempts to impose some constraints on gambling.
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Tournaments of All Stripes Bet on CS:GO
Sundance diGiovanni, founder and chief executive of the Major League Gaming (MLG), one of the world’s foremost gaming events, spoke in the past about people’s inclination to discredit video gaming. But baffling as it all might have seen, more people today have come to realise what Mr. diGiovanni knew with certainty years ago – competitive video games are big money.
The MLG has been a long-standing supporter of Counter-Strike: Global Offensive and the fact that betting has scaled up with the popularity of the game should come as no surprise to anyone. In 2016 alone, predominantly Brazilian teams raked in $1.8 million in tournament prizes, upsetting the established order whereby European teams reigned supreme on the competitive stage. The MLG championships offered $1 million in prize money in 2016 and E-League even outdid it, putting down $1.4 million on the table.
As an overview, it is safe to say that the year’s largest tournaments have brought to the most handsome profits over the period. So let us examine the following events:
- The Counter-Strike: Global Offensive tournament supported by DreamHack Masters 2017
The third edition of the event was staged in Malmö with a total prize pool of $250,000. An overall of 16 teams participated in the clash with some of the most popular eSports establishments eyeing the prize. SK Gaming, Natus Vincere along with the inappropriately dressed up Ninjas in Pyjamas and many others participated in the event. The tournament concluded on 3 September, 2017 and G2 Esports took home $100,000 followed by the runner-up, North.
- CS:GO PGL Major in Kraków
Another major event for the CS:GO community with a prize pool of $1,000,000. Neat! Gambit Esports were quick to best their rivals Immortals and clinch decisive victory with $500,000 as good as in the bank. Bookies scrambled and hurried to offer various CS:GO betting odds.
- CS:GO ESL One: Cologne 2017
SK Gaming managed to rake in another $100,000 drubbing the other finalists 3:0. The event has reverberated throughout the gaming world with the Electronic Sports League (ESL) being one of the long-established leagues in the world of electronic sports.
Other events throughout 2017 included:
- CS:GO DreamHack Masters Las Vegas 2017
- CS:GO – IEM Katowice 2017
- CS:GO ESL Pro League Season 5
How CS:GO betting and the game came to be
Steeped in realism, CS:GO is, in a way, the brainchild of two then-college students Minh “Gooseman” Le and Jess Cliffe. The pair’s story is plain enough – they wanted to play a first person shooter that emphasized on teamwork. In the absence of one, they created their own (the predecessor of CS:GO, simply known as Counter-Strike), unawares they would set in motion events, the echoes of which would boom 18 years later.
The game continues to fascinate hardened online combatants and strikes a chord with younger generations, which guarantees it a healthy stock of fresh blood, not all of it soaking the ground. CS:GO gambling has become an inseparable part of the game and the cause of much embarrassment for Valve in a recent far-reaching scandal which cited the game developer’s name as a key proponent of black market gambling.
When the reckoning falls due
Reasonable people would be able to argue whether electronic sports are really sports. However, their economic significance and implications, which have quickly assumed and spilt well into the realms of legality and morality, make them a tangible phenomenon, and some regulation is needed.
Counter-Strike has spawned a passel of successful iterations, the game has not only determined the pace at which the genre of first person shooters will develop, but also what form this upended world would take. Through the stonking efforts of the community and Valve’s own involvement in the franchise today CS:GO is the de facto champion of eSports and has helped usher in a new age for online betting. ESports and Counter-Strike betting are here to stay, and for good or for bad, we may as well make the most of it.