​Lawsuit Claims Valve Has Profited For Years From “Illegal Online Gambling”

The Quinault Indian Nation has filed a lawsuit against Valve, the makers of Steam, claiming that it is running an unlicensed gambling operation and demanding payment for damages.

Okay, this gets a little complicated so settle in. The Quinault Indian Nation owns and operates a licensed casino in the state of Washington, one that is regulated by the Washington Gaming Commission. Valve is also based in Washington.

In its suit against Valve (via Geekwire), the Quinault Nation alleges that "Valve facilitated illegal, unregulated and unlicensed online gambling" when it launched skins for Counter-Strike: Global Offensive (CS:GO).

Back in 2013, Valve started releasing skins for weapons in CS:GO, these upgrades are purely cosmetic. Players would earn crates by playing CS:GO and these crates could then be opened with keys which Valve sold in its store. The keys were the only way to open the crates, and it made Valve a tidy bit of cash.

The Quinault Nation says that "the look, feel, sound and experience [of opening a crate] was basically an online slot machine", providing footage of players opening crates to back up its claim.

However, more than that, The Quinault Nation takes issue with the industry that grew up around CS:GO skins between 2013 and 2016. It points to the skin gambling sites that were launching and says Valve did nothing to stop them. "Valve had actual knowledge of the identity of the Valve accounts that gambling websites used to effectuate gambling transactions, and chose not to take any action against them," the court documents state.

It goes on to claim that "Valve allowed gambling websites to use Valve accounts on Valve's servers and Valve's computers to effectuate gambling transactions" and that "Valve also provided technical support to gambling websites and real-money cash out websites, despite those websites violating Valve's Steam Subscriber Agreement, and would return control of gambling websites' Valve accounts back to the gambling website after being hijacked or hacked by other third parties."

The suit also claims that Valve could have stopped the gambling sites from running by shutting down one-way gift trades.

Valve added skins to Counter-Strike: Global Offensive in 2013
Valve added skins to Counter-Strike: Global Offensive in 2013

Now for those reasons and more, the Quinault Nation claims that Valve harmed the Nation.

The Nation has a contract with the State of Washington that means it must remain compliant with the state's laws if it wants to operate casinos, and that compliance costs money. It has to "engage in responsible gaming, prevent fraud, prevent illegal gaming, and prevent underage gambling". The Nation also pays 2% of its earnings in Impact Mitigation Funds, which go to paying support services in area around the casino.

If Valve is a gambling operation, like the Nation claims, then it is an unlicensed one and doesn't incur any of the costs or the risks that come with a gambling license. The Nation is suing for damages, but also the money Valve obtained through gambling transactions.

We have contacted Valve for comment and will update this story if it responds.

Do you think CS:GO skins are gambling? Let us know on Facebook and Twitter.

Featured Image Credit: Valve

Julian Benson

Senior journalist at GAMINGbible. Former deputy editor of PCGamesN and news editor of Kotaku UK. Written for Eurogamer, PC Gamer, Rock, Paper, Shotgun, Wired, and GamesMaster. Author of 'Rags, Bones and Tea Leaves'. Contact: [email protected]

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