European Gaming Lawyer magazine EGL_Spring2017_opt - Page 16

Skin Gambling – A case for regulation in Malta by Alistair Facciol B eing a relatively recent development within the gaming and gambling industry, there are elements within the concept of skin gambling which require the attention of regulators, operators and consumers alike. This article seeks to discuss the constitutive elements of skin gambling and its prevalence amongst consumers, its place within the definition of gambling according to Maltese law and following this analysis, recomendations to the Malta Gaming Authority (MGA). What are skins? In order to achieve a better understanding of skin gambling, it is pertinent to begin with the origin of the term within the gaming industry. It can be argued that the term ‘skin gambling’ traces its origins to Counter Strike: Global Offensive (CS:GO), an electronic game developed by Valve Corporation which sees two teams of players earning points by virtually killing players from the opposing team. In order for one team to beat its opponents, players make use of virtual weapons such as AK47s and knives. In order to give the game a personal aspect, players may personalise the weapons used – for instance an AK47 is available in customary black, but players may also spice up their AK47s by making use of a ‘skin’ to have a camouflaged weapon available for use during the game. Skins are cosmetic items that can 1 | European Gaming Lawyer | Spring Issue | 2017 be used in electronic games such as CS:GO, having the sole aim of altering the aesthetic appearance of a player’s in-game weapon, gear or avatar. It is worth mentioning that a skin does not improve the power or functionality of an in-game weapon but merely changes its aesthetic appearance. There are various ways for players to acquire these skins. In CS:GO, players are awarded skins in-game whilst playing or through promotional events. They can also trade skins with other players through ‘Steam’, an online platform operated by Valve Corporation, third party platforms or purchase skins through available online marketplaces. The rarer a particular skin is, the more valuable it is. Another way in which players may acquire these skins is by purchasing keys to unlock cases which contain a quantity of various skins as a prize. This model could be compared to casino slot machines since the game involves the purchasing of a key for the opportunity to win a number of skins as a prize. Acquired CS:GO skins are added to the player’s inventory on the Steam account. Skin Gambling Like a casino chip, a skin can serve as a de-facto virtual currency which can be used for gambling purposes. Players may make use of skins acquired in one of the above mentioned methods to bet and place wagers and gamble. Several products allowing skin gambling are available, including roulette, sportsbook