The crackdown on in-game currencies being used on gambling websites has begun in earnest, and a FIFA YouTuber has pleaded guilty to advertising illegal gambling.
The world of FIFA video games is often as lucrative as the real-world, with die-hard fans of big soccer clubs equally as likely to spend their money on virtual representations of their favorite players as they are to buy a jersey. FIFA 17 was the UK’s top selling game in 2016, continuing a long tradition of the title dominating European sales charts, and the positive response to the newly introduced storymode has seen EA already promise that FIFA 18 will feature a Journey campaign as well.
The bizarre thing about FIFA, however, is not just in how committed the series’ fans are to spending loads of cash on a number of simplistic, collectible features – it’s just how illegal that spending is becoming. Back in September, a FIFA 16 YouTuber and his business partner were charged with operating an illegal gambling firm and unlawfully advertising it with their channels, and now, Craig Douglas (aka NepentheZ) and Dylan Rigby have changed their pleas to guilty according to the BBC.
This is big news for the pair, as Douglas and Rigby had been holding fast and pleading not guilty up until this point, but as more and more evidence mounted against them, it appears they have decided to admit their wrong-doing now rather than still trying to save face. Essentially, website have appeared that allow players to buy and sell their FIFA coins – the series’ in-game currency – and NepentheZ used his channel to promote a website that then accepted these coins as currency to gamble on real world soccer games.
The problem? It turns out running gambling websites requires a license, and NepentheZ and business partner Rigby never bothered to acquire one. On top of that, NepentheZ actively promoted his website on his channel without ever disclosing to his viewers that he was the owner, which amounts to an advertising illegal gambling charge as well. It may seem strange to see someone risk so much on letting people gamble with in-game currency, but the world of FIFA is so lucrative that a professional soccer player quit his job to pursue FIFA streaming full-time, so there was a lot of money to be gained for NepentheZ and Rigby in the venture.
Both men have yet to be sentenced, but have been fined over $100,000 USD for their part in the illegal activity. Gambling has become something of an issue of late in the world of online gaming, with CS: GO‘s gambling problem looming large over the esports industry, and games like Starcraft 2 still struggling with match-fixing problems. It appears that the era of the wild west of esports gambling is slowly coming to a close, but there will likely be more high profile legal suits to come before it reaches its end.