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CS:GOPedia/Blog/Guides/How Counter-Strike: Global Offensive Started a Gambling Phenomenon

How Counter-Strike: Global Offensive Started a Gambling Phenomenon

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When the original Counter-Strike was released it is highly unlikely the developers would think that players would still be playing its successor over 20 years later. Indeed, CS: GO was probably not expected to remain as popular as it has for this long.

The fact that Counter-Strike: Global Offensive is still played today, competitively and socially, is a testament to Valve and its developer’s foresight. When the game was released back in 2012, the devs had already put into place a plan to extend the longevity of the title. 

The plan for CS: GO was not to just update the game regularly with new maps, but also to introduce a new feature not seen before; skins. 

Although skins were brought in as a way to digitally change the appearance of weapons, they soon developed into something more significant. As the game has grown over time and remained popular, so have skins. So much so that they are almost seen as a currency in their own right. 

How did CS: GO get here?

If you look back at the earlier video and computer games, they were either designed for one or two players; Pong, Street Fighter. Or, they were one-player games that followed a linear storyline more or less; Manic Miner. 

Of course, there were exceptions such as Quartet and Gauntlet which introduced the possibility of four players at once. 

While some of these games could be played repeatedly such as Street Fighter, others lost their interest once they were completed. Gaming felt more of a solo activity back then. 

Once technology caught up to developer’s imaginations though, things became much more complex. Then the internet arrived, and more importantly, high-speed connections. Games such as Battlefield 2 took over the lives of PS2 players, and other titles followed until in 2012, CS: GO arrived. 

The popularity of CS: GO

It could seem surprising to outsiders that a nine-year-old game is going strong, but the figures don’t lie. 

There were around 24 million active players of CS: GO during February of last year, according to Statista. That figure is highly likely to have risen during the enforced lockdowns that were imposed due to Covid. 

In May of this year, a record number of concurrent players was recorded. Even with a dip in players as the pandemic eases, the average number online is over 500,000 at any point, with highs of over 900,000. 

CS: GO was also the first game to pass a lifetime total of over $100 million in tournament prize money. So you see, CS: GO isn’t going anywhere just yet. 

Multiple Twitch channels are streaming CS: GO games, with the most popular, Flashpoint, averaging a little under 70,000 views a time. 

Interestingly, betting companies are also getting in on the streaming game with one in the top ten Twitch CS: GO channels. This ties in with the current rise in eSports betting that is happening, and this isn’t the only area where the game crosses over into gambling.


What has CS: GO got to do with gambling?

It might seem strange that an FPS would have any connections to gambling, but CS: GO does, and for some, it is quite concerning. 

Online gambling has exploded in popularity over the last two years, again possibly because of the pandemic. If you wanted to visit an online casino and play blackjack or slots, you could just visit a website and have a safe bet. You would have to be an adult and have ID to play though. 

However, there is a different form of gambling in CS: GO that isn’t regulated in the same ways. 

When skins were first introduced it was to add an extra layer of interest to the game, and Valve expected players to use different ones to match the surroundings of their maps. For example, arctic colors for snow-based maps. 

What happened though is that many players favored the brightly colored ones, and then when the rarity of some skins was taken into account, a value was assigned to them. 

What on earth are skins, and how much are they worth?

If you have never played a game that has skins or you have stumbled across this article by accident, then here is a very brief description. 

Skins are a digitally created cosmetic way to change the look of an item or weapon. Typically they are added to guns and knives, but in some games, they could transform a whole character. 

They come with different attributes in CS: GO, including how worn they appear, and also how rare they are. When skins are very rare, they can be sold for large sums of money. 

The most expensive skin traded, as of January this year, was for $150,000. However, some skins are actually worth less than what they were purchased for.


How did skin gambling start?

Skins took on value through the Steam gaming platform, and through the desire of players to own the rarest ones. Steam allowed the trading of skins on the platform and took a 15% cut from all sales. 

The problem was, there was an upper limit on how much a skin could be sold for, and the money couldn’t be withdrawn as real cash. This led to third-party sites where skins could be sold for real money or crypto. 

Then the trade in skins evolved further to allow anyone to gamble their skins against another's on the outcome of a CS: GO game. Other games include flipping a coin, and a winner-takes-all lottery. 

Is skin gambling illegal?

Although there is much concern from certain areas, such as ParentZone, skin gambling is not illegal. Nor does it come under most gambling acts. However, things are changing, and regulators are stepping in now. 

One of the reasons that skin betting wasn’t and still isn’t illegal in many places, is that it doesn’t involve cash. Skins are a virtual commodity being bet against another and no money is changing hands. 

Are video games involved in other areas of gambling?

The other big area in video games that is garnering controversy is loot boxes. Many governments and authorities are investigating and lobbying to have loot boxes banned. 

eSports have entered the world of casinos now, and legal betting is available from lvbet.com and many other sites. Also, virtual sports games are gaining more popularity in online casinos. 

It may not be long before video games themselves cross over into some form of licensed gambling. After all, eSports are growing in popularity, and many gamers are adults, not children. 


Steam has banned any form of skin betting from its platform, but there is a possibility this activity may still become properly regulated. Until then, eSports betting is available for anyone age-appropriate, and trading can still carry on. 

If you want to trade skins for profit then you may need to be guided at the beginning, as there is much to learn. Not all skins are created equal, and it is easy for a newbie to spend more on skins than they are worth. Not everyone trading skins is as honest as you might hope. 

If you do take part in trading or betting skins then find a website that can be trusted, and be careful what you are willing to part with. You might just gamble away a $100,000 skin without realizing it.


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  • Last Update 27 October 2021
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