CS:GO betting sites - and their ties to high-profile streamers and gamers - continue to fill the headlines this week. As I've previously mentioned in this article about CSGO Lotto, CS:GO betting uses weapon skins as currency in order to get around the laws prohibiting online gambling in the US and other countries. Skin betting has become big business for the most popular CS:GO gambling sites, and, as it turns out, for the streamers and gamers who secretly run them or work for them.
The PhantomL0rd Drama
This week, a hacker who was attempting to steal from CSGOShuffle - another skin lottery/betting site - uncovered around 1800 Skype messages between the site's founder, Duhau Joris, and Twitch streamer James "PhantomL0rd" Varga. These chat logs were provided to Richard Lewis, a popular and influential gaming journalist. Two days ago, Lewis released a Youtube video presenting the evidence he gleaned from these logs.
As PhantomL0rd's fans already know, he has repeatedly promoted CSGOShuffle on his Twitch stream. What fans didn't know, is that he is deeply connected to the company, perhaps even the owner.
According to Lewis, the chat logs:
“heavily suggest, almost to a degree of certainty, that PhantomL0rd is the owner of CS:GOShuffle, that on top of that, he has gambled exclusively with house money taken from the business, that he has also held meetings with other betting sites to discuss methodology, and also that he has asked Joris, the site coder, for percentages of rolls to increase his outcomes of winning and/ or losing as he wants to do appropriately for his own personal gain.”
So what, specifically, do the chat logs show? In one instance, PhantomL0rd messaged Joris in the middle of an especially popular stream asking him to deposit skins into his CSGOShuffle account so he could bet on the air. PhantomL0rd also frequently asked for percentage odds on site rolls, so he could place bets at opportune times. Even more interesting, some of the messages seem to indicate that PhantomL0rd had inside knowledge about the shady practices of both CSGOLotto and CSGOWild. Perhaps he got some of his ideas from them?
FaZe and CSGOWild
In the wake of the CSGOLotto scandal, and TmarTn's ill-fated apology video, another CS:GO gambling site came under fire. For some reason, this drama didn't inspire as much outrage as CSGOLotto, even though it involved a professional CoD team. About a month ago, the CSGO News Youtube channel released a video accusing FaZe Rain and FaZe Banks of secretly owning CSGOWild, and concealing their ownership with several shell companies. Both Rain and Banks have publicly denied having anything to do with the site.
However, the aforementioned chat logs between PhantomL0rd and Joris seem to indicate that they're lying. In his discussions with Joris about CSGOLotto and CSGOWild, he mentioned contacting both Syndicate and "the CoD FaZe guys" to find out more about how they operate their sites. It may seem like rather thin evidence, but since the messages were sent in November of 2015 - well before Syndicate's ownership papers were filed for CSGOLotto - many people suspect that PhantomL0rd had some insider knowledge of the CS:GO betting scene. That makes his FaZe name-drop seem much more credible.
What's Wrong With That?
Even though CS:GO betting sites are able to side-step gambling laws by using skins instead of real currency, their owners are still bound by other laws, most notably the advertising rules set out by the FCC. As I mentioned in my previous articles, the FCC requires broadcasters to announce any sponsorship or ownership of the products or services they promote. While this usually affects television shows and movies, it also applies to online videos. By failing to acknowledge their ownership of CSGOShuffle and CSGOLotto, PhantomL0rd, Rain, and Banks broke the law every time they promoted their sites in their streams. It doesn't look like any charges have been filed against them yet, but they've already been found guilty by the court of public opinion.