EVE Online Game Developers Ban Virtual Casino Gambling Inside Their MMORPG Game Universe
CCP, the game developers behind EVE Online, are targeting the online gambling casinos which have gained so much power inside the game. EVE Online has operated for its first 13 years as a pay-to-play MMORPG game. Monthly subscriptions cost about $20. In November 2016, CCP plans to switch to a free-to-play game model. That should increase the population of EVE Online, which in turn should have a number of effects.
Virtual casinos have been banned in the game, in particular IWantISK or IWI, the best-funded in-game casino. On November 8, gambling inside the game is going to become illegal. The decisions stem from “World War Bee”, in which virtual casinos paid a vast coalition of smaller powers to attack the game’s most powerful space empire, Imperium, which is controlled by Alex “The Mittani” Gianturco.
Imperium Leader Critical of Casino Rules
In a Polygon interview in June 2016, TheMittani was critical of CCP and IWI.
TheMittani said of the virtual casino system, “A casino is something that exists completely outside of the game. The vast pool of its funding comes from people who are addicts. So the only counter to this process is to create your own casino.
“In terms of play and counter-play, you essentially have an arms race of entities within Eve, and within other games that have potentially similar issues, to find and exploit as many people who suffer from gambling addiction as possible in order to counteract this unattackable source of funding.”
What’s more, TheMittani stated in that interview that some percentage of the EVE Online playing community is underage. He suggested that the virtual casinos might not only be unbalancing to the game, but also illegal, due to the promotion of underage gambling by the Icelandic company which designed EVE Online. Since those charges echo a scandal currently overtaking the Counter-Strike: Global Offensive world, it likely led to the changes set for November 8.
November 8 Ban on Casino Gambling
To prepare for the November 8 launch of its EVE Online: Ascencion, CCP has been cracking down on the player-owned gambling casinos. The casinos use EVE Online’s ISK currency. As the casinos gained in ISK riches from a galaxy-wide network of in-game gamblers, they developed the resources to fund a major war in the game.
Whole fleets of pirates and mercenarires were bankrolled in a massive attack on the game’s top faction, Imperium, which lost huge amounts of territory and resources in the war. With those losses, allies deserted the Imperium, which is also known as Goonswarm or “Goons”.
How Gambling Addiction Started a War
TheMittani said in the earlier interview, “That advantage of exploiting the gambling addiction of players in the game is so extreme that it unbalances the entire financial and resource based aspect.”
Thus, the game administrators have decided to rebalance the game, to assure casinos don’t have the power to decided the future of the galaxy.
How the Ban Was Enacted
EVE Online EULA outlawed virtual casinos in the game. A phrase has been added to close the loophole which was being used to manipulate the game. The new directive says, “You may not use, transfer or assign any game assets for games of chance operated by third parties. The buying, selling or auctioning (or any attempt at doing so) of characters, character attributes, items, currency, or objects, whether through online auctions, newsgroups, postings on message boards or any other means is prohibited by the EULA and a violation of CCP’s proprietary rights in the Game.”
EVE Online traditionally has allowed players a great deal of latitude in their in-game transactions, allowing the game’s economic system to regulate itself. One of the reasons players are so dedicated to the game is the social and political aspects to the economic system, which are not controlled from the top. Players question why the new changes are needed, but those changes from CCP likely have little to do with concerns over the Goonswarm — or other such situations in the future.
Gambling in eSports
Real-world concerns appear to have caused the rules change. In the past couple of years, legal concerns have arisen over CS:GO skins-gambling, daily fantasy sports, and forms of online gaming which have a semi-legal status. State attorney generals have begun to look closely at all money transactions tied to online games, to see if they constitute illegal gambling.
In the CS:GO skins-gambling scandal, third-party gambling sites allowed children as young as 13 to gamble with real world money on virtual guns. This raised all manner of legal concerns, especially after gambling site operators used illegal means to tout their sites on YouTube. In the wake of that scandal, the Department of Justice for the State of Washington gave Valve two weeks to force third-party skin-gambling sites to cease and desist, or face penalties or bans themselves.
Daily Fantasy Sports Gaming
Daily fantasy sports sites like DraftKings and FanDuel have been under fire for the past year over their legal status. The DFS sites claim their sites are legal under the UIGEA, but state attorney generals in Nevada, Michigan, Illinois, New York, Texas, and other states have challenged those claims. The companies have been forced to fight costly legal battles, while lobbying state legislatures to pass regulations which explicitly state DFS gaming is legal — but not gambling.
The judicial, legislative, and public relations battles have forced the companies on the defensive and dwindled resources to the point that FanDuel and DraftKings are discussing a merger. Such a merger would save the companies significant expenses in legal fees, lobbying fees, and advertising budgets.
CCP is likely trying to head-off any legal challenges over its virtual casino gambling. Though measures have been used to keep ISK currency from being sold in third-party sites, such transactions are hard to police offsite. It is much easier — or perhaps the only feasible way — to police EVE Online casinos with restrictions through the rules and gameplay. Such a decision might be unpopular with players, but it is likely seen as a necessary evil by CCP itself.