Two weeks ago, the Washington State Gambling Commission demanded that Valve cease the transfer of Counter-Strike: Global Offensive weapon skins via Steam, citing links to illegal online gambling. Now, the company has responded with an outright denial of any wrongdoing in the matter.
Various third-party gambling sites offer Global Offensive players the chance to gamble real-world money for the opportunity to earn rare weapon skins. While these services are separate to the game itself, the Washington State Gambling Commission argues that Valve is aiding their operation, because the skins are transferred via Steam.
On October 5, the Commission claimed that Valve is enabling a “large, unregulated black market,” and gave the company until October 14 to come up with an explanation. Valve waited until October 17 to respond, submitting a letter to the commission and sharing it with the press.
Liam Lavery, the company’s legal counsel, states that the allegations have “no factual or legal support,” according to a report from Engadget. “As we have explained on multiple occasions, Valve is not engaged in gambling or the promotion of gambling, and we do not ‘facilitate’ gambling,” Lavery writes in the letter.
While Valve concedes that betting sites are using Steam to transfer prizes, the company has refused to shut down trading. The reasoning is that the platform itself is not at fault, and any misuse by a small proportion of users shouldn’t come at the detriment of the broader user base.
One potential headache is the thorny issue of transaction fees — Valve doesn’t make any money from like-for-like weapon transfers, but it take a small fee during monetary Marketplace transactions. “This means that Valve could feasibly be making money from transactions related to gambling, albeit without its knowledge,” writes Lavery.
However, Valve is making attempts to cut down on gambling related to its games. Cease-and-desist letters have been sent to over forty different betting sites, and efforts to stamp out bots related to this activity are ongoing. “We would be happy to cooperate with the Commission,” Lavery stresses in his letter to the organization.