YouTubers Escape Punishment For Promoting CSGO Gambling Site Without Disclosure
CSGOLotto owners will not be fined by the FTC.
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Two YouTubers who promoted their own Counter Strike: Global Offensive gambling website without disclosing their stake in it will not be punished by the US Federal Trade Commission. Trevor "TmarTn" Martin and Thomas "ProSyndicate" Cassel produced videos of themselves winning valuable CS:GO items via CSGOLotto.com, a website they owned but did not disclose their connection to until after investigations in 2016 by fellow YouTubers HonorTheCall and h3h3Productions.
After an investigation, the FTC has decided not to impose any fines on Martin and Cassel, who have instead agreed to disclose any endorsements going forward. Future breaches of this agreement will lead to a $40,000 fine for every infraction. Notably, the FTC's decision does not require Martin and Cassel to admit any wrong-doing over the pair's promotion of CSGOLotto.
"The goal of the FTC isn't to be a punitive or draconian agency," the regulator told Rolling Stone. "We are here to educate consumers about new markets."
Martin and Cassel's site allows users to gamble weapon skins earned in CS:GO in an attempt to win rarer and hence more valuable skins. These skins have real-world value and can therefore be sold for large sums of money by circumventing Steam, the Valve-owned platform where CS:GO is played. According to a Bloomberg report, as much as $2.3 billion worth of skins was bet in 2015 over a number of websites.
The YouTubers' failure to disclose their interests in CSGOLotto violates YouTube guidelines and has also called into question the authenticity of the videos; it has been suggested the pair's ownership of the site may have allowed them to fix the outcome of bets in order to stage wins and thus encourage viewers to use the website. Their videos showed them reacting with surprise and elation as they won large sums of money.
In addition, the FTC's report states that Martin and Cassell also ran an "influencer program," which paid other YouTubers between $2,500 and $55,000 to promote CSGOLotto while avoiding saying anything negative about the site. The pair will now be required to disclose any such agreements.
Since skins are not a legal currency in themselves, the skin gambling industry has not until now been regulated as tightly as traditional casinos and bookmakers. TmarTn and ProSyndicate's audiences--which together total over 13 million users--include a number of children, leading to the pair's promotion of a gambling site drawing further criticism.
TmarTn defended his promotion of CSGOLotto in a video that he later deleted but has been archived. "It's never been secret," he said. "We've never gone around bragging about it saying, 'Oh yeah we own the site' all over social media. But it's also never been a secret, it's been mentioned in videos before, on livestreams before ... it's never been this big scary, hidden thing that people are making it out to be."
ProSyndicate, meanwhile, stated he felt his disclosure was sufficient, and said he stands "very firmly behind the fact that CSGOLotto has never & will never scam/steal from players."