Update Jul 7, 2016: TmarTn has now gone dark as his lawyers reveal there will be no further comment. Meanwhile, Valve are under fire in a related case, as another lawyer lays fault at Gabe Newell's door for allowing an "illegal gambling" ecosystem to flourish around CS:GO.
TmarTn released an apology video last night, though it's since been removed. The video itself didn't give any answers, as the YouTube star avoided tackling any of the difficult questions popping up around his CS:GO skin betting site, CSGOLotto. His lawyers have since said we won't be hearing any more on the situation.
Not all our favourite FPS games have entire industries set up around their microtransactions.
Eurogamer reached out to TmarTn and was answered by his legal team who are now responding on his behalf. All they were told is that there would be "no further public comments on the matter", suggesting the rest will be settled in court.
Meanwhile, another case is brewing against Valve. Another lawyer, Jasper Ward, is representing a client who's suing Valve for allegedly allowing an illegal gambling market to grow around their shooter using weapon skins, some of which are worth substantial amounts. Ward also represents another underage client who's also taken out a lawsuit against Valve.
Ward describes Valve's silence around this whole saga as "unconscionable".
"In sum, Valve owns the league, sells the casino chips, and receives a piece of the casino’s income stream through foreign websites in order to maintain the charade that Valve is not promoting and profiting from online gambling, like a modern-day Captain Renault from Casablanca," the suit alleges. "That most of the people in the CS:GO gambling economy are teenagers and under 21 makes Valve’s and the other Defendants’ actions even more unconscionable."
Speaking to Polygon, Ward claimed Valve "created and is profiting from an online gambling ecosystem that, because it is illegal and unregulated, harms consumers, many of whom are teenagers.
"Parents don't know this is going on and can't talk to their kids about it because the gambling chips are called ‘Skins’ and it seems like just another in-game purchase.
"Valve is like a bar owner who lets people set up roulette wheels and blackjack tables in the back, sells chips to teenagers on their way in the door, and then makes people cash out at the pawn shop across the street," he said. "Oh, and it has created a new game it owns and on which those kids can gamble, then lets the bookies take bets on it in the corner booth.
"The fact that it's Valve's server and software instead of a bar, and Steam's API instead of a physical roulette wheel and international websites like OPSkins instead of a pawn shop and Lounge instead of a bookie in the corner booth doesn't change what Valve is doing: it has created a gambling ecosystem out of thin air, and its customers are getting scammed and losing money on rigged websites as a result."
Ward says Valve need to tell their side of the story, which he's "anxiously awaiting".
While all this has been bubbling over, another YouTuber has possibly been caught scamming people in a different CS:GO betting site. Watch the full video below where YouTuber 'thegregster101' has done some cracking detective work.
Update Jul 7, 2016: TmarTn's apology video has now been pulled as he was "disappointed in it", though various reuploads are available.
After a mere few hours online, Trevor 'TmarTn' Martin's apology video has been pulled from his YouTube channel, with the CSGOLotto website owner replying to a tweet asking why by saying he was "disappointed in it." Before it went offline, several comments were removed and dislikes were disabled for at least a portion of time. At final viewing, according to one Redditor, it had a ratio of roughly 21,000 likes to 51,000 dislikes.
TmarTn posted the following on Twitter just a couple of hours ago, in response to queries about the video:
@OfficialTrivyte I was disappointed in it— TmarTn (@TmarTn) 7 July 2016
This has been such a humbling experience. Live, learn, and grow. Thankful for those still with me. Good night guys.— TmarTn (@TmarTn) 7 July 2016
Many people were critical of TmarTn for the apology, saying that it felt scripted by a legal team and didn't admit to any wrongdoing. Given we know of at least 75 people who wish to sue him for his actions, neither of those things should really come as a surprise. Removing the video, or indeed making it in the first place, does seem like a strange move from his legal team when his partner in CSGOLotto, ProSyndicate, has remained mostly silent on the matter and has continued his planned content production during a trip to Florida.
One ex-fan took to Twitter to highlight his deleted comment and was swiftly blocked by TmarTn's account:
TmarTn also tweeted earlier yesterday a picture of his YouTube subscriber stats, showing that the vast majority fall in an age bracket above 18, to dissuade allegations that he pushed gambling videos to minors.
Elsewhere, Redditors have pointed out that the Steam community for CSGOLotto has removed all references to 'gambling' from its description and title.
If you want to see the apology video, here's a reupload:
Alternatively, we've abridged it to the key points:
Update Jul 6, 2016: TmarTn has released a short video where he kisses a dog, thanks his fans and apologises that you didn't realise he was affiliated with the gambling site he owns.
"My connection to CSGOLotto has been a matter of public record since the company was first organised in December of 2015, however I do feel like I owe you guys an apology," he says. "I'm sorry to each and every one of you who felt like that was not made clear to you."
It's worth noting that "public record" means it's present in the company's documents, not that TmarTn ever said he owned the site publicly.
The only criticism levelled at him that he actually addresses in the video is about the site's age restrictions. He doesn't mention the video that clearly showed him logged into the gambling site's bot, and he doesn't address criticisms based around videos of him saying he "found" the site, suggesting he wasn't being clear he's an owner.
Most of the video is TmarTn thanking his fans for letting him have all the success he's found through YouTube. Here's the video, which has had 'dislikes' disabled:
“First and foremost, Trevor Martin values the support of his YouTube followers, and he is focused on publishing entertaining content for them.
“The ownership interests in CSGO Lotto have been public record since the company organized in December 2015.
“It is important to understand that winners on the website are randomly determined by both algorithms and computer code. The odds of winning games played at CSGO Lotto are not more or less favorable to any players. The company has fail-safe measures in place to prevent any person and any player from independently changing or manipulating the outcomes of any games played.
“CSGO Lotto finds it deeply troubling that statements against both the company and its owners are not supported by facts and lack a serious understanding of “gambling,” as that term is legally defined. In this way, CSGO Lotto is materially different from its competitors who operate other game play websites that may, in fact, cross the line of legality.
“-Coleman Watson, Esq. Watson LLP”
Update Jul 6, 2016: A tri-lawyer AMA on Reddit has revealed some interesting facts, but TmarTn's promised statement is yet to appear.
The train rolls ever onward. Three eSports focused lawyers ran an AMA last night on the CS:GO subreddit answering questions about the current gambling scandal, possible ramifications, the on-going lawsuit against Valve and any other topics people may be curious about. Meanwhile, Trevor 'TmarTn' Martin's statement on the situation, which he said would arrive yesterday, has been delayed until later today.
There's a lot of interesting answers in the AMA, but most so is the disagreement between Ryan Morrison, aka VideoGameAttorney, and Bryce Blum, aka eSportsLaw, on exactly what the ramifications of the CSGOLotto, ProSyndicate and TmarTn scandal will be. While Morrison believes lawsuits and punishment are inevitable, Blum is less sure. It's also split between whether civil or criminal charges will be brought.
On the civil end, Morrison says that he has "received over 75 emails from people wanting to sue TMartn specifically (they are in his videos, losing to him). They used to think it was a cool video to have. Now it's proof of fraud (in their minds). So if my firm doesn't lead that litigation, another firm will." He also goes on to say that he agrees they "have a good case." Blum says he's also received similar emails.
For criminal, there's less surity. Blum believes that the understaffed and overworked nature of government departments means they're not going to want to bother with YouTubers and videogames until something desperately serious happens. Even with the situation being reported to the FTC, he doesn't think it will go anywhere. Morrison, on the other hand, takes a mercenary view, believing a District Attorney will pick the story up and run with a lawsuit as a career-building move - or just because they're a nice lawyer. Blum thinks it isn't "juicy" enough yet but will be if things "continue down this path." The third participant, Jeff Ifrah, points out the FTC can bring serious weight to a situation if it likes.
There's a nigh-endless amount more in the actual thread if you feel like a read. In general, Morrison is fairly sure serious legal consequences will befall TmarTn, ProSyndicate and others, while Blum thinks the storm will need to continue a little longer before the big legal folks sit up and pay attention.
As for the YouTubers, ProSyndicate has been mostly quiet on the situation, though did say he had a statement coming in one of his vlogs. TmarTn posted last night that the statement video he promised for yesterday is instead coming later today. He didn't explain the delay. We'll update if and when it's posted.
Update 11:00PM BST: Trevor "TmarTn" Martin, president of the CSGOLotto site he and co-owner Tom "ProSyndicate" Cassell have been promoting without disclosure for several months, will issue a statement tomorrow.
The statement comes as another high-profile YouTuber and streamer Josh "JoshOG" Beaver, who admitted to owning equity in the gambling site while also failing to disclose his "sponsorship", has begun removing videos where he discussed his relationship with the site.
The footage JoshOG removed was a VOD from his Twitch stream today, uncommon as all of his previous VODs remain up including the stream before today's on July 2.
In the duration of the stream, he answered a question from a viewer on whether he was worried about his relationship with CSGOLotto, which is still visible as a prominent link out – several times – from his Twitch channel.
The answer has been clipped by a viewer below:
Further instances of him discussing how his name is on the charter for the business that he hold equity in can be seen at 5h07m58s and 6h32m45s in this mirror of the VOD which someone had the forethought to grab hold of.
TmarTn's statement tomorrow is expected to address his non-disclosure of the site's ownership during promotional videos, as well as the attempts to cover up information related to its discovery by HonorTheCall (which if you're new to this story you have a lot of reading to get to down below).
ProSyndicate has not made an announcement of any statement, despite his involvement in a potentially third Federal Trade Commission breach in as many years.
In January 2014 he was part of the Machinima network and received $30,000 to produce two positive videos on the Xbox One launch title Ryse without disclosing the fact.
A year later, in August 2015, having been warned by the FTC about the need for disclosure, he and fellow YouTuber Adam "Seananners" Montoya failed to disclose they owned the publisher of Dead Realm, a game they were producing substantial numbers of videos for.
Update 8:00PM BST: Valve have unblocked CSGOLotto after a volunteer moderator mistakenly flagged it as malicious earlier today, while an attorney has stated that TmarTn and ProSyndicate's conduct was "definitely illegal". Furthermore, a separate YouTuber has admitted taking part in rigged CS:GO wagers in order to promote another skin gambling site.
Volunteer Steam community moderator KillahInstinct jumped into a Reddit thread about the gambling site being blacklisted on Valve's malicious website database to explain the confusion.
"In combination with some newly added people reporting URL's to this process led to some links being eronously blocked," he wrote. "I have corrected this and have talked to the people involved and made more clear this should only be for malicious links."
However, elsewhere, Trevor "TmarTn" Martin and Tom "ProSyndicate" Cassell's deceptive non-disclosure of their ownership of a gambling site they promoted has provoked some interesting reactions.
Ryan Morrison, an attorney specialising in games and digital media, has been fielding questions about the situation as it stands with regards to advertising standards in the US.
"It's definitely illegal, and definitely reported to the FTC," he wrote to a Twitter user wondering if failing to tell someone you own the company you're promoting is illegal or just immoral.
It's definitely illegal, and definitely reported to the FTC https://t.co/GZcOODXPS6— Video Game Attorney (@MrRyanMorrison) July 4, 2016
The US Federal Trade Commission has strict advice on how to flag promotional videos, including self-promotion if the content creator owns the brand they are promoting.
The chain reaction of exposés this morning has also resulted in another prominent YouTuber, Lewis "PsiSyndicate" Stewart (not to be confused with ProSyndicate) admitting that he has taken part in rigged gambling site promotions without disclosing.
In the video made today, he claims that SteamLotto (again, not to be confused with CSGOLotto) rigged wagers he took part in to gift him an AWP Dragon Lore and an AWP Medusa skin, as well as a Ruby Karambit knife. In total he estimates the skins come to around $3,200 real world value, though he says he gave away the first two in an act of contrition once he realised what he had done was, in his view, immoral.
PsiSyndicate also said he was considering giving away the knife too, but he does say it is his favourite and suggests it is only a maybe. His reasons for taking part in the promotion, and not disclosing his fee or the nature of the rigged wagers, was that he is "only human" and "weak-willed".
He also suggested at multiple points throughout the video that there are several other "worse" cases in the YouTuber and streamer community.
"A lot of CS:GO youtubers are going to have things that we aren't too happy to admit and will hide, and that's what I've been hiding for a while now and it's not been the hardest thing," said Stewart. "Like I said, there's been no concerns of anyone ever finding out because how the fuck are they going to, but there you go."
Update 4:30PM BST: After receiving mainstream attention this morning, CS:GO betting site CSGOLotto has been hit with a Valve warning and one of its owners, Trevor 'TmarTn' Martin, has begun privatising videos and deleting tweets.
Today's CS:GO betting saga goes on and on. The website in question, CSGOLotto, now has a massive anti-scam warning from Valve when you attempt to log into it via the Steam API. It can be bypassed via the small print, but it's a big statement from Valve. Meanwhile, Trevor 'TmarTn' Martin, who was the main target of the H3H3 Productions video that kicked it all off, has begun deleting tweets and privatising videos that he's made in response.
Here's a screencap of the message from Valve, that warns the site has been flagged as "phishing, scamming, spamming, or delivering malware."
TmarTn has deleted almost everything related to the scandal from his Twitter and YouTube. He had originally posted a Twitlonger response, a cached version of which can be seen here, but it's been removed. Tweets regarding the situation have also been removed, including this one which, according to EG, said "There's reporting news, then there's just making shit up. It's gonna be really funny when a huge slander law suit pops off and makes an example of some of these guys."
TmarTn has also wiped clean the playlist of videos of CSGOLotto bets he had on YouTube, the remains of which can be seen here. There are re-uploads available, including this video which clearly shows TmarTn logged into one of the CSGOLotto bots.
TeamEnVyUs, of whom TmarTn is a minority stakeholder after a sponsorship deal some time ago, has issued a statement to make it clear that they weren't involved with the situation at all, nor were their players. Any deals in place those players were made between the website and players personally, rather than enforced by the team. Team owner Mike 'hastr0' Rufail has also come out on Twitter to say that he expects there would be a lot of surprise from the community if all the owners of these websites were revealed.
Just a hunch, but I think many people would be surprised to learn who owns other skin lotto sites. Lots of alleged owners in the community.— Mike Rufail (@hastr0) 4 July 2016
He's also defended TmarTn saying he is "a great person."
Original story: The CS:GO gambling scene has long been controversial, but took a new turn this weekend when YouTube channel H3H3 Productions released a video explaining that two massive YouTubers - ProSyndicate and TmarTn - have been making videos focused on gambling while advertising a site they own and not disclosing it. They also explain exactly how CS:GO gambling works and the recent news of a class-action lawsuit against Valve regarding the skins economy.
It’s not only a good primer on the situation but explains exactly what’s wrong with what these folks have been doing too:
It’s worth pointing out there’s quite a lot of speculation of their own in there, particularly regarding how fake the videos are. That totally aside, the lack of disclosure of sponsorship has been a hot topic for many months on YouTube and one that has snared many of its top creators. Few, however, have been in the position of actually owning the product they’re advertising.
As mentioned, a lot of the information comes out of another channel called HonorTheCall who made a couple of videos on the subject. They cover the same information and feature the same speculation around faking reactions or results.
Since then, another member of the company and content creator, Josh ‘JoshOG’ Beaver, has discussed his position there on Twitch, as posted on Reddit. He explains that he has equity in the company as part of one of their earliest sponsorship deals, and that this was a fairly common practice during the early days of sponsorships.
So far, the only response to H3H3’s video from the two parties are various tweets, most notably ProSyndicate saying he apologises “to anyone who feels mislead regarding the ownership of CSGOLotto” and that there will be “transparency from here on out.” He also specifically denies that the site has ever or will ever scam players. Do check out his feed for a bit more.