YouTube stars Craig Douglas and Dylan Rigby have been charged by the UK Gambling Commission (UKGC) for encouraging underage video gamers to gamble.
In what are first-of-its-kind charges, the Gambling Commission alleges the two vloggers inspired children to gamble and provided instructions on how to do so.
Douglas and Rigby focus on the FIFA video game published by US-based Electronic Arts. The FIFA series is one of the most popular games in the soccer-centric UK.
The game features in-game currency “coins,” similar to skin betting in other eSports, that can be used to acquire players and upgrade stadiums. Douglas and Rigby showed viewers where and how to acquire coins on different websites.
In August, the UKGC ruled that websites promoting or encouraging eSports or social gaming betting must be licensed.
“We are concerned about virtual currencies and ‘in-game’ items, which can be used to gamble,” UKGC General Counsel Neil McArthur said. “Any operator wishing to offer facilities for gambling, including gambling using virtual currencies, to consumers in Great Britain, must hold an operating license.”
FIFA 17, the 24th installment of the game, hits American shelves on September 27, and the rest of the world on the 29th.
The UKGC said in a press release that Rigby and Douglas violated the Gambling Act 2005, a parliament law that, among other things, protects children and “other vulnerable persons” from being harmed or exploited by gambling.
Not Your Parent’s Video Games
In past decades, parents often worried about the video games their children were playing largely over the game’s violence. Today, a whole new host of concerns are present.
Though gambling is still illegal for in-play video gaming, the industry has developed creative ways to add monetary value.
ESports has quickly become a mainstream topic in gambling over the last several years. Games and tournaments on such titles as “Call of Duty World League,” “Dota 2,” and “Counter-Strike: Global Offensive (CS: GO)” has led to an eSports market valuation that’s expected to approach $23 billion by 2020.
Skin gambling, or the selling and buying of virtual goods in video games, has revolutionized video gaming. And FIFA, a seemingly harmless soccer video game, is now involved.
A simple Google search of FIFA coins turns up dozens of exchanges for the in-game currency.
BuyFIFACoins.com allows users to buy up to 10,000 coins at a time for $118.77. Considering the many FIFA coin exchanges, those costs could rapidly add up should a minor obtain their parent or guardian’s credit card.
According to the UKGC, Douglas and Rigby failed to monitor their audience and implement restrictions and issue warnings to potential underage viewers.
Some of Douglas’ 1.3 million subscribers actually told him he should disclose that the videos are only for those 18 and older. “Jesus, lmao. Go annoy someone else, somewhere else,” Douglas replied in a tweet.
The UKGC is going after the emerging betting systems, and Douglas and Rigby are being made the Commission’s first example.
Both defendants briefly appeared in court late last week. Their cases will continue on October 14.