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Valve widens Counter-Strike gambling crackdown, tells another 20 sites to close

Including one linked to a popular streamer banned from Twitch

Owen S. Good is a longtime veteran of video games writing, well known for his coverage of sports and racing games.

Valve has threatened another 20 websites with legal action if they don't end their "skin gambling" operations in Counter-Strike: Global Offensive, and one of them is a site connected to a popular streamer recently booted from Twitch for the practice.

That site is CSGO Shuffle; in this report on July 16. James "PhantomL0rd" Varga was alleged to be one of its owners. Varga was banned from Twitch four days later under a new policy in which live streams of betting competitions in Global Offensive are forbidden.

"Skin gambling" is a form of betting wherein Counter-Strike: Global Offensive player skins are used as a kind of betting currency in a match, sort of like casino chips. The third-party sites in question hold the bets until the match is complete and award the pot to the winner, who can redeem the skins he won on Steam for real money. Some sites also used skins as currency in other forms of gambling, such as virtual roulette or slots-type games.

Valve began cracking down on these betting sites about two weeks ago. Several big sites closed immediately, without being issued a formal notice by Valve lawyers. Then, on July 20, Valve's general counsel threatened 23 sites with legal action if they did not close in the following 10 days. The text of the letter sent to the latest batch of sites is the same as the letter sent to the first.

The deadline for the first wave of sites sent cease-and-desist notes from Valve expires on Wednesday. Some of those are still in operation. One site, CSGO Lotto, and its owners have been sued, though that action was brought by a parent on behalf of their child, and Valve is a co-defendant.

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