In the wake of a scandal where it came to light that two prominent YouTubers, Trevor ‘TmarTn’ Martin and Tom ‘ProSyndicate’ Cassell, promoted a Counter-Strike gambling site they founded and owned sans overt disclosure, the two have been sued. Polygon reports that Martin and Cassell, as well as CSGO Lotto and its business partners, have been added to a recent lawsuit against the CSGO skin betting scene. This is not the same suit we previously reported on, although it has many of the same complaints and even shares an attorney, Jasper Ward. As it pertains to CSGO Lotto specifically, the suit alleges that they “actively promote Lotto as a gambling service, including to minors”.
This suit was filed by a parent on behalf of her child, and much like the other suit, it claims that Valve has fostered the growth of an illegal gambling scene where weapon skins stand in for casino chips.
The news comes on the heels of a whirlwind week for Counter-Strike’s skin betting scene, which allegedly managed to move $US2.3 ($3) billion in 2015 alone. Cassell and Martin, especially, have had quite a time. On one hand, you have Cassell, who tweeted out a brief non-apology shortly after the news broke and then clammed up. Then you have Martin, who’s spent the past few days digging the hole deeper and deeper.
Since word of the scandal got out, Martin’s done everything from claiming that he posted CSGO Lotto videos to test the waters before investing in a company he definitely founded, to saying that each of his videos always had (still very flimsy) disclosures even though they were added after the fact, to making all his CSGO-related videos private, to issuing a video non-apology of his own and then removing it after everyone got pissed and turned it into memes. (Important context: Dude said, “I love you guys,” so many times that I thought he was gonna whip out a goddamn ring.)
The guy has tried everything. And each time it’s become clear that the goodwill fairy hasn’t magically removed the stink from his bullshit, he’s tried something else — seemingly assuming that if he just hides or deletes the last thing he did, people will forget it the next day. It’s a head-on collision of old-school scandal cover-ups and the rapid-fire pace of modern media. Deleting and reframing will only get you so far in an age where everyone’s a cyber-sleuth. And yet, dude can’t stay away even though he keeps burning the hell out of himself.
It’s worth noting that, in the video (transcript here), Martin was adamant that CSGO Lotto does not condone underage betting, something the aforementioned lawsuit alleges it promotes. Martin continued, however, to beat the ol’ “matter of public record” drum. “I am sorry to each and every one of you who felt like that was not made clear enough to you,” he said of a connection that only could’ve been uncovered if someone thought to themselves, “Hey, I know, I’ll go dig up the incorporation papers of this random CSGO skin gambling site because why not?” I’m sure that is the hobby/kink of somebody somewhere in the world, but that’s not transparency. That’s a weak-arse excuse. That’s garbage.
As I said before, Cassell hasn’t said much in the past few days. There are, in all likelihood, a couple factors at play here. For one, even before the lawsuit landed, we’re talking about a situation where he potentially broke the law. Fully fessing up — though it’d be the right thing to do — might screw Cassell and Martin legally.
The more insidious bit, though, is that Cassell’s already been caught red-handed for this sort of thing before. Last year, he posted multiple videos promoting multiplayer horror game Dead Realm without an upfront disclosure of his financial ties to publisher 3BlackDot. Ultimately, though, 3BlackDot argued that they posted about Cassell’s involvement on social media (though again, no such disclosure existed on or in the videos), and Cassell didn’t face much in the way of consequences. Sure, he got some negative press, but he still has nearly 10 million subscribers, actual legions of adoring fans. It’s one of the most prominent and worrying examples that perhaps YouTubers of sufficient popularity can just kinda… get away with this stuff, despite FTC guidelines that suggest otherwise.
It doesn’t help that the current pair of anti-Counter-Strike gambling lawsuits don’t hold up well to legal scrutiny. That said, I sincerely doubt they’re the last of their kind.
By and large, people have not taken the Counter-Strike incident well, but already there’s been a fissure between irate folks who feel misled and diehard ultra-fans who treat Martin and Cassell like the Second Coming. That’s YouTube culture for you, though. If you don’t squint, you might not be able to see the rivulet of space between blind devotion and toxic destruction at all.