Esports Skin Betting
In a nutshell, esports skin betting or skin gambling is a form of esports betting, whereby players bet using a specific form of virtual enhancement as currency.
While most esports betting is similar to betting on traditional sports or other events, skin betting is unique to esports.
In this guide, we’ll explain how to place bets using skins instead of cash, which games offer esports betting, how to place your bets and more.
How Does Esports Skin Betting Work?
First things first, if you are new to esports, you might be wondering what a skin is?
Well, think of it like a virtual paint job or make-over. A skin can be used to change the look of an item in a video game, from weapons to clothing, or even the characters/avatars themselves.
For example, a skin might make an avatar look more futuristic, or decorate a weapon with tribal motifs. This can help the player to create a new image, even though the alterations are purely cosmetic.
In a similar way to wearing a designer label on your clothes in the real world might afford you prestige, sporting a rare skin, be it clothing of weaponry, will garner you recognition from other players.
Whilst skins are only visual and give a player no advantage within the game, rare skins are highly sought after and, therefore, have become valuable in the real-world.
Skins can usually be acquired in one of two ways within a video game. Either you can earn enough points to purchase skins, or you can buy them from the in-game store.
Certain games also have passes, which you can purchase at the start of a season to unlock skins and other bonuses and enhancements.
There is a lot of real money to be made, in some cases, such as in January 2018 when a Counter-Strike: Global Offensive sniper rifle skin sold for $61,000.
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As with anything of value, you can trade skins for in-game currency or real-world money, this is called skin betting.
Skin betting doesn’t usually take place within the actual game but on a variety of online casino sites where skins can be used as currency to play casino games such as roulette, coin flip, jackpot or case opening.
In this way, skin gambling is more akin to betting on an online casino than traditional sports betting because it is about betting on games of chance. However, skins can also be used when betting on esports matches on certain sites.
Once purchased, skins can be held in a virtual wallet, which can then be transferred to a site which offers skin betting, and used as tokens to bet with.
Steam Community Market
There is a digital marketplace called the Steam Community Market, which enables players to trade skins or make purchases through a one-way online Steam wallet.
A Steam wallet can be funded by e-wallets such as PayPal or by credit card. However, you cannot withdraw funds from it, or use the money elsewhere. There is also a Steam store where you can make purchases outside of the digital marketplace.
Once a player has a skin in their account, they have a couple of options:
- Leave the skin in their account until they are ready to trade
- Use the skins in the game to change their avatar’s or weapon’s appearance
- Trade the skins with fellow players
- Use the skins as currency to play casino games or place bets
- Swap the skins for real-money on third-party sites
- Sell the skins on the Steam marketplace for Steam credit to buy other skins and games via Steam
If a player wins, they are paid in the form of additional skins, which they can ‘cash out’ so that the esports betting site deposits the skins back into the winning player’s account.
Which Games offer Esports Skins Betting?
Skin betting began primarily with Counter-Strike: Global Offensive (CS: GO) and the two are still inextricably linked, with CS: GO making up 80% of total skin gambling activity.
However, it is not the only video game or esport which trades in skins. Defense of the Ancients (Dota 2) also has its own ‘lounge’ site on the Steam trading system, whilst PUBG also has a skin gambling community.
Other games such as League of Legends do not currently have official skin betting channels, and organisers dissuade their fans from skin gambling.
Esports Skin Betting & Cryptocurrency
Cryptocurrencies are becoming more popular in the betting world in general but both industries have grown together and, therefore, share an affinity for their users.
Since many games use their own form of in-game currency, it is no surprise that esports and cryptocurrencies enjoy a strong relationship.
Players who are comfortable using in-game currency often prefer to use cryptocurrencies in day-to-day life, with Bitcoin being the most popular.
Bitcoin operates on the blockchain, which is a secure system which offers transparency for admins to investigate any kind of fraud more easily.
The decentralised nature of Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies means that it is unregulated, but secure, making it the perfect partner for unlicensed skin gambling.
As Bitcoin is becoming more mainstream and has a high value – approximately $23,000 per coin at the time of writing, it is becoming increasingly prevalent in sports and esports betting.
At participating websites, skins can be traded in for cryptocurrencies, or vice versa, instead of real money via a Bitcoin wallet or similar.
Some esports betting sites also operate using their own cryptocurrency, which also operate on the blockchain.
The Best Sites for Esports Skins Betting
Unfortunately, there are many scam sites for skin betting. This, coupled with the fact that it is largely unregulated and unlicensed has led critics to raise concerns that anyone, including under-age children, can become involved in gambling through the trading of skins.
However, there are reputable sites which offer skin betting, you just need to do a bit of research and be careful not to be taken in by welcome bonuses which seem too good to be true (they most likely are).
Once you find a licensed site offering skin betting, you usually have some freedom in terms of whether you deal in real money or cryptocurrency, but make sure the other aspects of the site suit your requirements first.
To help you out, we’ve listed the sites we recommend for skin betting on CS: GO and Dota 2, below.
History of Esports Skin Betting
Skins started appearing in 2012, when Valve introduced them into Team Fortress 2 and, crucially, CS: GO. Originally intended to add as a reward for players playing well enough to earn them, they also acted as an enticement to keep playing and, later, to purchase battle passes and other seasonal cards.
At the same time, however, Valve also made sure the skins could be traded, thereby creating a marketplace and a demand for certain skins.
Valve quickly realised that it was the most colourful skins which were the most highly prized as they were a clear display of a player’s prowess, and set about making certain skins rarer than others.
This was a shrewd move which ensured that players were more and more focused on acquiring these rare skins, thus increasing their value. Some skins are now worth more than $3,000.
When you consider that Valve takes a 15% transaction fee for every trade performed in the marketplace, you can see just how much revenue can be made solely from skin betting.
The esports skin betting heyday was undoubtedly 2015/2016, when multiple platforms and sites sprang up to facilitate, particularly CS: GO skin trading.
In 2016, gamers spent more than $7 billion on skin gambling, $5 billion of which was spent on Counter-Strike: Global Offensive.
When you compare this to the $500 million wagered in cash across the entire esports industry, you can see just how popular esports skin betting was among esports enthusiasts just a few years ago.
Concerns surrounding the appeal skins betting to children who play the games in question, and also the relatively easy to access nature of skin trading platforms halted esports skin betting’s meteoric rise.
Controversy surrounding Valve’s role in encouraging skin gambling has also resulted in a lawsuit against the CS: GO developer and many skin betting sites being forced to stop trading.
Revelations that esports stars actually owned some of the esports skin betting sites they were endorsing was another issue that diminished the industry’s credibility and standing.
However, while subsequent years have not equaled the monumental 2016 total for skin betting, that’s not to say skin gambling isn’t still popular.
Analysis firm Naruscope has predicted that by the end of the year, $13 billion worth of skins will have been traded in 2020.
While this is lower than earlier predictions of $20 billion, (made in 2016 and hastily revised) it still shows clearly that skin trading remains a multi-billion dollar industry and continues to account for a significant portion of esports skin betting revenue.