Counter Strike: Global Offensive streamer James “Phantoml0rd” Varga, who was kicked off Twitch in 2016 for allegedly failing to disclose ownership of a site he promoted online, is suing the platform that made him famous.
As reported by gaming and esports website Polygon, Varga filed a complaint on Wednesday in San Francisco’s Superior Court of California, claiming monetary damages from Twitch for the deletion of his account.
He was an online celebrity with almost one million followers and 16,000 subscribers on his channel when Twitch pulled the plug, following an exposé of his activities by gaming journalist Richard Lewis.
Lewis had received a dossier from an unnamed hacker which appeared “almost to a degree of certainty,” according to Lewis, to prove that Varga was the owner of CS:GOShuffle, a roulette-style skin-gambling site he promoted to his followers by betting in real-time through his live stream.
Meanwhile, a cache of 20,000 hacked Skype messages between Varga and Duhau Joris, a programmer at CS:GOShuffle, were damning. They revealed Varga had asked to be sent the results of spins before they happened.
It strongly suggested that payouts were being rigged for Varga’s streams to make skin-gambling appear more attractive to his followers.
“On top of that,” wrote Lewis, “he has gambled exclusively with house money taken from the business … he has also held meetings with other betting sites to discuss methodology. Also … he has asked Joris, the site coder, for percentages of rolls to increase his outcomes of winning and/or losing as he wants to do appropriately for his own personal gain.”
But Varga’s suit, filed almost 600 days after the event, claims his contract with Twitch required a written explanation for termination, something he says never occurred. He also claims he was “permitted to broadcast the very content that they later used as an excuse to illegally terminate his contract.”
Varga says he was told by a Twitch representative in January 2017 that he had been barred not for gambling violations, but for amassing “fraudulent subscribers, like bots, which violated the company’s terms of service.”
The allegations against Varga came at the height of the skin-betting scandal, when regulators and politicians suddenly became aware of the clandestine, multibillion-dollar online gambling industry that had grown up around the trading of CS:GO “skins.”
These are collectible in-game designer weapons whose varying rarity and ability to be transferred to third-party sites transformed them into a de facto cryptocurrency that could be used by children for gambling.
In July 2016, facing lawsuits accusing it of promoting underage gambling, CS:GO developer Valve moved to shut down the third-party gambling sites that had been feeding off its in-game economy, accusing them of violating its terms and conditions.
One of those sites was CS:GOShuffle.