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Valve facing criminal charges over Counter-Strike gambling

Following months of scandals stemming from Counter-Strike gambling rings, Valve faces criminal charges leveled by the Washington State Gambling Commission (via Kotaku).

The latest chapter in this ongoing saga started around the end of September, when the WSGC issued a letter giving Valve until October 14—last Friday—to "respond and explain" how Steam complied with state gambling laws in light of the litany of recent gambling controversies.

Valve missed the deadline. Liam Lavery, the company's legal counsel, sent a letter dated this Monday, October 17, denying any responsibility for players gambling on weapon skins in Counter-Strike: GO (via Tech Raptor).

"Outside of Steam," Lavery wrote, "certain websites offer gambling propositions. Valve has no business relationships with such gambling sites, and indeed they can come into existence, operate, and go out of existence without Valve's knowledge." Lavery goes on to explain that such websites can accept trades of CSGO skins and other items as "wagers from other users, and settle winnings with further trades of CSGO skins."

Valve neither supports no facilitates those dealings, and highlight two features of Steam that may inadvertently facilitate them: skin trading, and OpenID. Users can trade skins through Steam's internal marketplace, and identify themselves via Steam account without having to give credentials to third-party sites such as gambling businesses.

Lavery points out that those services are not illegal. What's more, he challenged the Washington State Gambling Commission to provide a citation for any "specific statute or regulation you believe Valve is violating."

Valve has taken legal action against over 40 gambling sites that let players wheel and deal using CSGO skins and is willing to cooperate with the WSGC to crack down on even more. There are limits to what Valve can do, however, due to user-created tools and the rapid propagation of gambling sites.

"We do not know all the skins gambling sites that may exist or may be newly created, and we are not always able to identify the ‘bot’ accounts that particular skins gambling sites may use to try to effectuate Steam trades. Cleverly designed bots can be indistinguishable from real users performing legitimate trades and their methods and techniques are constantly evolving. A bot account that is blocked can easily be recreated with a new identity almost immediately."

Lavery also passed along Valve's "surprise and disappointment" that the WSGC went public with its legal charges, considering Valve has not yet perpetrated any illegal action per its claims.

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