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YouTube is a relatively unregulated industry that requires urgent judicial attention


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The world of YouTube, in particular gaming channels, has become a lucrative industry. Many in the general public may see it as no more than a hobby but YouTubers have accumulated huge fan bases, generating significant revenues based on how many views each video gets and earning them sponsorships, turning it into a lucrative business.

Many YouTube personalities earn more than £1 million a year. It is a largely unregulated industry and, as such, the normal judicial laws are often subverted. The latest scandal to hit the YouTube gaming scene is over gambling, and two YouTubers – Thomas Cassell , AKA Syndicate Project, and Trevor Martin, AKA TmarTn – are at the centre of it. They have made several videos of themselves using a gambling site to win ‘big’; the problem is that they both own the site shown in the videos, and never disclosed this fact until they were exposed.

Both Cassell and Martin have millions of subscribers and several sponsorships. They earn millions from YouTube, which makes their scam even more sickening. The pair own a site called ‘CSGO Lotto’, a site that enables players to exchange real money to earn gun skins in the massively popular game Counter-strike Global Offensive. To acquire a skin in the game you pay $2.50 (or £1.80) to get a key that unlocks a random skin, like a slot machine. You can then sell these skins for cash, with some going for over $1,000. The gambling element comes in through sites like CSGO Lotto, as you can then bet your skin with other players in the hopes you will be returned with one more valuable.

The site is also accessible to all those over the age of 13 – not 18 – which is the requirement in most western countries.

The company that owns the game and allows this gambling trade is known as Valve who own the popular gaming streaming site ‘Steam’, where CS:GO is usually played. At the end of last month a lawsuit was filed against them by a man from Connecticut, Michael John McLeod. He alleges valve ‘knowingly allowed, supported, and/or sponsored illegal gambling by allowing millions of Americans to link their individual Steam accounts to third-party websites’. McLeod also noted that some CS:GO gambling sites don't require age-certification, allowing minors to post bets. Bloomberg reported that the Counter-Strike gambling industry is a $2 billion dollar business.

This is obviously shady work by Valve, but they will have to deal with the legal repercussions. What I find worse are the actions of Cassell and Martin. They both uploaded multiple videos with titles like ‘WINNING BIG $$$$!!! (CS:GO Betting)’ and ‘CRAZY HIGH WINS!’ – which both sound like bad adverts by scam companies.

In one video, Martin says: “I’ve been starting to bet a little bit more, and I've found this new site called CSGO Lotto. I've been betting on it today and I won a pot of $69 and it was the coolest feeling ever. I ended up following them on Twitter and they are talking to me about potentially doing a skins sponsorship, like they will give me skins to be able gamble on the site and I think that would be kind of cool.”

What isn’t made clear is that Martin is the owner and president of CSGO Lotto, with Cassell holding the title of Vice President. They never once disclose this in any of their videos, and they could have potentially rigged their winnings discussed on the YouTube videos to make it seem there was a higher chance of winning ‘big.’

This is hugely immoral and borders on illegal. There actions are similar to actors who, in centuries past, would con the public into buying miracle ‘tonics’ that could cure any ailment, whilst being in on the scam from the start. The pair already have fame and fortune but are so fuelled by greed they had to start a scam to trick the very people who made them successful in the first place.

Since the revelations both have been apologetic but still believe they didn't do anything wrong. As Cassell said on Twitter: Transparency from here on out’, as if he didn't realise what he was doing was wrong.

Credit must be given to the YouTube channel HonorTheCall who investigated the pair and found their links to the gambling site. It should also be given to h3h3Productions, who made a long and detailed video exposing the two, which has subsequently gone viral with nearly four million views.

Hopefully this case will focus lawmakers’ attention more directly onto the world of YouTube so we won't have to rely on other people to help enforce ethical standards. Martin and Cassell should be prosecuted but I doubt it will happen; the YouTube channel economy is still relatively young and it will be a while until all the laws that apply to the most other industries are reflected in this online space.

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