Interview: WA State Gambling Commission Doesn’t Know What They Want Valve to Do

Living in Washington State, I know we have some of the toughest gambling laws in the nation. We're one of the few states that bans the use of websites such as FanDuel and Draft Kings, and we have a specific criminal prohibition on internet gambling.

Valve, headquarted in Washington, is now feeling the effects of those laws. Per a release, the Washington State Gambling Commission notified Valve today that they need to "stop allowing the transfer of virtual weapons, known as 'skins' for gambling activities through the company's Steam Platform."

While the word "stop" seems pretty clear, the Gambling Commission didn't say exactly how Valve is supposed to do that.The release also uses other vague language, such as "take whatever actions are necessary," and "take proactive steps." Confused? So was I, so I gave Chris Stearns, Chairman of the Commission, a call to find out more.

What this comes down to is the use by third party websites, as the release states, of Steam's trading platform to facilitate gambling, primarily by Counterstrike: Global Offensive weapon's skins. Our own Jonathan Leack wrote a detailed piece on the controversy.

I know this trade system well, as a Dota 2 player. When I was new to the game, I got scammed out of a Vintage Timebreaker because I didn't know it was worth anything, and I'm sure I just made every Dota 2 player reading cry. At any rate, the most unclear aspect of the release is how Valve is expected to differentiate between the trade of these weapons for gambling purposes, versus the trade for non-gambling purposes.

"I'm sure Valve will come up with a way to do that,' Stearns said. "My son says there's a way to do that."

Stearns elaborated that they aren't intending to abolish the legal trading of items across Steam by non-gambling players, but, despite repeated pressing, was unable to say exactly what their intention is. Valve has already publicly condemned the practice of gambling and sent cease and desist letters to major and minor CS:GO gambling websites, such as CSGO Lounge, CSGO Lotto, and CSGO Diamonds.

"Bottom line: Gambling is going on in Washington state," Stearns said. "Those letters are nice, but they didn't end gambling. Valve hasn't solved the problem."

Again, though, Stearns was unable to say exactly how they want Valve to solve the problem. Perhaps consulting with Mr. Stearn's son would have been more beneficial. It seems, though, that this letter is intended to open up a dialog between Valve and the Washington State Gambling Commission so they can come to a solution together.

So what does this mean for Valve and the future of its trading platform? For the moment, nothing. But We'll find out more by Oct. 14th, the deadline for Valve to respond and, as Stearns put it, "Provide a description of what they're changing," whatever that means.