On Wednesday, just hours after games developer Valve Corporation said it would no longer permit third-party gambling sites to access its Steam marketplace, Twitch posted a blog message warning users that “content in which the broadcaster uses or promotes services that violate Valve’s stated restrictions is prohibited on Twitch.”
eSports has become a mainstay of Twitch programming, responsible for more than one-fifth of total viewership, according to some estimates. Valve titles like Counter-Strike: Global Offensive and Dota 2 are among the most popular eSports titles streamed via the platform.
The past few weeks haven’t been kind to eSports, with Valve hit by class action lawsuits for allegedly facilitating skin betting by minors as young as 13 years old. Then there’s the ongoing revelations of eSports stars publicly shilling for skin betting sites without revealing their ownership of said sites.
In a separate case, eSports star Mohammad ‘m0E’ Assad – a popular Twitch streamer – went public last month with claims that he’d received favorable treatment from skin betting site CS:GO Diamonds, which allows users to wager skins on the chance of winning more valuable skins via a roll of the dice.
Assad, who had a marketing deal with CS:GO Diamonds, claimed that the site gave him advance knowledge of the outcome of his rolls, thereby allowing him to repeatedly depict big wins via his Twitch stream. CS:GO Diamonds admitted its involvement in the charade, while simultaneously letting itself off the hook by claiming that both parties had made “a bad decision to do this just for entertainment.”
The embarrassing revelations aren’t all so recent. In February 2015, Valve issued a toothless warning to stop gambling on eSports matches following a string of incidents in which eSports stars were found to have thrown matches in which they had bet on their opponents to win.
The mounting negative press has cast serious doubt over the viability of the eSports skin betting industry. The activity will most assuredly continue, and much will depend on Valve’s ability and/or willingness to enforce its ban, assuming regulators don’t step in and force their hand (which seems more likely than not). Regardless, expecting the meteoric growth of skin betting to continue would seem a very bad bet.