Two UK YouTubers Arrested for Advertising Unlawful Gambling on Video Games
Two British YouTubers are the first to be cited for advertising unlawful gambling on video games by regulators in the United Kingdom this week. The case had been brought by the UK Gambling Commission, who allege vloggers Dylan Rigby and Craig Douglas are promoting unlawful gambling through their YouTube accounts. Rigby and Douglas are accused of promoting a lottery, too.
The charges are serious for the two UK residents. Craig Douglas has been charged with inviting children to gamble. Dylan Rigby has been charged with “including the provision of facilities for gambling“.
NepentheZ YouTube Identity
Craig Douglas has been posting on YouTube under the name “NepentheZ”, who promotes gambling on FIFA Ultimate Team mode. The FIFA video game is estimated to generate $10 billion in US dollars a year in gambling action.
NepentheZ has over 123,000 followers, who listen to his stat comparisons and his breakdown of FIFA football player abilities.
The NepentheZ videos have titles like “#Top20 Fastest Players in #FIFA #17” and “FUTGALAXY – FIFA BETS, FIFA PACKS & FIFA 16 COINS!”. The videos also promote gambling with FIFA coins, which are an in-game currency purchased through micro-transactions. The UK Gambling Commission alleges the promotion of these transactions equates to encouraging minors to gamble.
Dismissed the Perils in 2015
PCGamesN linked to a video from June 2015 in which NepentheZ dismissed a tweet voicing concerns about the promotion of gambling with in-game currency. At the time, Craig Douglas posted to his Twitter account, “Let us worry about that kind of stuff, yeah. Jesus, lmao. Go annoy someone else, somewhere else.”
Those concerns proved to be prescient, though Craig Douglas was able to continue his allegely illegal activities for another 15 months. Now, the two Essex residents look as though they’ll pay the price for many months of flouting the UK gaming laws.
Craig Douglas Posts to Fans
Craig Douglas posted under his NepentheZ identity in the last few days. He told his fans, “I appreciate those who has reserved judgment without the full story, but fully understand those who haven’t. Enjoy your day.”
Rigby and Douglas Appear in Court
During the legal proceedings, Dylan Rigby has maintained a less prominent profile online. Rigby ran the now-defunct FUTGalaxy page, another popular YouTube channel which is accused of promoting the FIFA gaming.
BBC News reported the two men’s appearance in court. The BBC report said, “The two men appeared at Birmingham Magistrates’ Court. The case has been adjourned until 14 October. The Gambling Commission, which brought the prosecution, has been looking into the rise of video game gambling. It is warning parents that children can be drawn into betting on so-called skins – virtual goods such as weapons or clothes that are a feature of many popular games.”
CS:GO Skins-Gambling Scandal
Both men are expected to be back in court in October 2016. The UK video game arrests come on the heels of a similar scandal involving two YouTubers, Trevor “TmarTn” Martin and Thomas “ProSyndicate” Cassell, who were found to own all or part of websites in which children as young as 13 gambled real money on CS:GO “skins”.
Counter-Strike: Global Offensive is an online game based on modern tactical warfare. CS:GO offers skins (virtual weapons) in their game, but a black market has proliferated on third-party sites where people can engage in coin-toss bets to see who wins in-game skins.
Shilling Their Own Gaming Site
Martin and Cassell pretended to be average CS:GO players who won lots of skins on one of these gambling websites. They even showed videos of big wins in the gambling forum. What they did not mention is they owned the skin-gambling sites (CSGOLotto.com), meaning they could manipulate the outcome of those bets or fund their accounts until they won at a rate which would impress possible customers.
Their YouTube videos violated policies the Google-owned video site has against unacknowledged advertising. YouTubers must reveal their affiliation with a service or product they advertise. The United States Federal Trade Commission’s guidelines state that “as long as the audience knows the nature” of the relationship, such ads are not illegal. That could be argued in court, though the men appear to have made no reference to their relationship to CSGO Lotto until reports surfaced that they owned the site.
Encouraged Underage Gambling
The real legal jeopardy for Martin and Cassell is who they were encouraging to gamble. Because the two men encourages underage children to gamble illegally, one has been the subject of a class-action lawsuit and both are facing legal jeopardy in the United States.
Since the CSGO skins scandal happened, eSports industry leader Steam has taken legal steps to shut down third-party skins gambling sites. Still, Steam and EA Sports made a lot of money from the increased attention the skins sites provided, and many have wondered why actions were not taken sooner.
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