Two face criminal charges in videogame gambling case, likely a world first

On the heels of a U.S. lawsuit against Counter-Strike betting sites, two U.K. men have been charged with promoting unlawful gambling.

The BBC reports that two Essex men -- named in the report as Dylan Rigby and Craig "NepentheZ" Douglas -- have been charged with promoting unlawful videogame gambling services. Douglas is additionally charged with promoting gambling to minors.

This summer's Counter Strike: Global Offensive betting scandal and civil lawsuit sparked a rush of discussion on the legality of so-called skin betting sites, in which gamblers treat purchaseable in-game collectibles including cosmetic repaints ("skins") as chits to be wagered and traded. Valve Corporation -- the company which developed and maintains CSGO, as well as the Steam service over which these item trades and sales take place -- has disavowed the practice, insisting it has not profited from any gambling activity and later blocking many known betting sites from using its API. At least one CSGO skin betting site, CSGO Lounge, embraced its gambling reputation and officially barred participants located in countries where gambling is banned (including the U.K.), but soon after reversed course and banned skin betting from its site, attempting to rebrand as an esports hub.

Meanwhile, a parallel scandal concerning YouTube personalities is continuing to unfold. This past July, two men behind another skin betting site, CSGO Lotto, were accused of advertising the site to their viewers without adequately disclosing that they owned it. A professional CSGO player was similarly accused of boasting about his winnings to viewers without disclosing his financial connection to the site on which he betted. The whistleblower who first exposed CSGO Lotto has since turned his YouTube channel into "a full-blown accountability project for the YouTube gaming community," digging into other alleged scams.

Craig 'NepentheZ' Douglas, as he appears in one of his videos. Craig 'NepentheZ' Douglas, as he appears in one of his videos.

This brings us to Dylan Rigby and Craig Douglas. Rigby has since deactivated his channel and not much on his alleged activities has yet been reported in the press, beyond the court's charges. We know a little more about Douglas, who, under the handle NepentheZ, is believed to have directed minors to the betting operation FUTGIVEAWAYZ, themed around EA Sports' FIFA series of titles. Where CSGO betting centers on wagered skins, FIFA gambling is more direct, involving FIFA's in-game coins which are typically purchased with real money.

"Let us worry about that kind of stuff, yeah," Douglas told a fellow Twitter user in June of 2015, when warned he could get into legal trouble for not clarifying the site was for adults. "Jesus, lmao. Go annoy someone else, somewhere else."

While the McLeod suit against Valve and multiple CSGO betting sites did a lot to draw attention to the scandal, it's believed that Rigby and Douglas's criminal charges represent the first of their kind, and could open the door for similar cases going forward, especially with Douglas's additional charge concerning minors. U.K. regulatory bodies are often more aggressive about the whole kids and digital scams thing than their American counterparts.

Top image: a screenshot of UTCOINBET, another FIFA betting site.

(h/t BBC, PCGamesN, Kotaku.)