Prior Knowledge Of Skin Betting Outcomes Can Be Used Unethically
Esports Betting Report

Are ‘Provably Fair’ CS:GO Skin Gambling Sites As Fair And Safe As They Claim?

random numbers
The CS:GO skin gambling community has been startled to find in recent weeks that popular gambling destinations may in fact be privy to game outcomes ahead of time.

A prominent skin gambling site, CSGODiamonds.com, posted a blog entry outlining an altercation last month with one of its Twitch streaming partners, m0E, which raised concerns for everyone currently gambling with CS:GO skins.

During this incident, m0E made threats to reveal the service’s ability to forecast game results ahead of time for anyone using the service.

“We made a mistake with Moe and decided to tell him some of his future rolls in an effort to make his stream more entertaining on our site.”

–@CSGO_Diamonds

Yes, that’s right — they know the outcome well enough ahead of time to leverage the information and give the impression that winning happens more often than it should.

M0E eventually spilled the beans on Twitter, providing screen grabs of Skype conversations showing CSGODiamond’s owner allegedly going out of his way to convince the well-known streamer to use the insider information to rig the game and showcase big wins on the site.

How do ‘provably fair’ gambling sites work?

If you have no idea what “provably fair” means or stare off into space every time you hear someone yammering on about it, here’s a slightly oversimplified explanation:

  • The random number generated to dictate the result of the gambling event (roll of dice, spin of roulette wheel, etc.) is determined by a combination of factors – some from the server side and some from the client side. These factors are referred to as “seeds.”
  • Players have access to the client side seed, but can only see a “hash” of the server-side seed. Basically, it’s a series of numbers and letters which has been sent through a complex algorithm and which would be incredibly difficult to derive the original number from.
  • After the gambling event takes place, the online casino shows you the client side seed for the previous event. This is “provably” fair because players, if they so choose, can input that seed into the algorithm to make sure that the same hash as was given to them originally comes out.
  • If the hashes match, it proves that the site did not change the result and that your win or loss by wagering on the event itself was fair.

Sites using the system are indeed provably fair as it relates to the outcomes of games — of that there’s no question — but only in the sense that the outcome can be repeated given the variables provided. This has nothing to do with the operator’s ability to predict that outcome when it is able to read its game’s unprotected server seed before the players can.

Basically, the whole of the provably fair model is based upon the idea that the past is predictable. As a consequence of this, the future can be just as easily predicted, given complete information. The reliability of that relationship isn’t what we should be calling into question, but rather what the powers that be decide to do with it.

To be clear, if you have been wagering on CSGODiamonds, you have probably not been taken advantage of. The outcomes were truly random, and the site is not “rigged.” That said, employees with a certain level of access do know ahead of time what results are – they just can’t change those results.

Understandably, many people would consider “provably fair” to apply not just to aspects of how the game determines the outcome, but also to the transparency of the operator when it comes to matters like these.

CSGODiamonds has shown us just how slippery of a slope that can be if you’re not careful.

What can go wrong with CSGODiamonds’ system?

Although gambling events weren’t impacted, the ability to access results ahead of time does make you wonder just what someone running one of these sites would be capable of doing if they were so inclined — especially given the fact that virtual property laws are few and far between.

Circumventing gambling laws and finding creative ways to skirt them has been a national pastime in many places in the world. With crypto-currencies becoming more widely used and cryptographic law being such a quagmire because of the extreme lack of education on the topic, it certainly raises the question regarding what sort of industry we’re dealing with here.

With the laws nowhere near where they need to be, what obligation does a site like this have to keep records to offer up in case its honesty is ever called into question? What chance does an outsider have to really know that something isn’t quite right?

There isn’t much incentive to keep your nose clean when there’s little to no oversight. It’s unfortunate but it’s going to happen — that’s just the way the world operates on a long enough timeline.

Bitcoin and other cryptography-based currencies like it offer a similar level of security and privacy as you find on CS:GO skin wagering sites for the same technology-driven reasons.

The only real difference here is that the keys to the locks are changed every few seconds, with copies given to the person opening the door afterwards. With crypto-currency, that private key is never handed out to anyone, ever. Heaven help you if someone steals that wallet from you.

There are easier ways of going about laundering funds or evading taxes than doing so through CS:GO skins. But surely that doesn’t mean sites should operate using systems which would enable anyone to achieve those goals so easily.

Many of you may be well aware of the scandal involving unlocking an iPhone in California by court order. It is simply mind boggling how so few currently comprehend what the implications of compromising encryption standards could be.

Apple released a very telling statement regarding the matter. You should give it a serious read if you’re starting to grasp just how important of a topic this actually is.

What can be done to ensure the integrity of online gambling?

In most gambling industries in the world, a regulatory agency (both private as well as public) is used in the process of submitting gambling content to markets. These markets can trust that the regulating agency cares more about its reputation than the fickle kickbacks it could potentially receive for skirting fairness guidelines.

These agencies also provide industry guidelines pertaining to how software operates, and what’s considered fair not only to the player but also the casino. A good example of a private agency would be GLI (Gaming Labs International), which handles gambling product submissions as well as writes and enforces standards for how those products operate.

This agency even has guidelines for how random number generators should operate (check out page 19).

This is an industry that I myself have been a part of. Because of this experience, I can certainly speak to the benefits that these integrity checks provide when it comes to the quality of a gambling experience delivered to the public.

Providing algorithm transparency is a good step in bringing people into that world of trust, but there really are so many other angles that need to be covered to ensure that this industry doesn’t turn sour and further tumble into controversy.

And there’s no reason for a site to generate future results in bulk the way that CSGODiamonds does. The site is correct that it doesn’t change player odds or outcomes, but it DOES make it possible for site employees to use the information unethically in other ways.

Perhaps it’s time to bring these gambling outlets into the regulatory fold and begin expecting higher standards be met for fairness.

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Justin Reckling is a Las Vegas-based programmer and QA professional.