In late December an announcement on the Lounges sites, CSGOLounge and Dota2Lounge, revealed that there will be a ‘money refund program’ for some of the sites’ users.
It was CSGOLounge which was very much at the centre of the skins betting drama which kicked off last summer. Robert Borewik is the founder whilst ESForce Holding is an investor which came in last spring. Each of the sites allowed the trading and gambling of in-game items, and ESForce Holding is said to own as much as 90% of the company behind CSGOLounge.
Alisher Usmanov is the man behind ESForce Holding which is but one of his vast umbrella of companies. According to a Forbes report in 2015 Usmanov is the wealthiest man in Russia and the 58th richest in the world with a wealth estimated at $14.7bn (£11.9bn).
In a statement posted on the CSGOLounge site on December 29th it was revealed that some users will be refunded for skins lost.
The statement (which can be read in full here) says that each site ‘never had any tools for money input and output and never made profit as a betting platform’. It continues: ‘The only way to receive income was advertising. In the summer of 2016, after our Steam bots had been hacked, our platforms had to implement a small fee for a 3 month period in order to defend our bots and recover lost items. After Valve had banned our bots with in-game items which belonged to the CSGOLounge and DOTA2Lounge users, ESforce and Borewik made a decision to refund the items with their own means’.
Borewik and those behind the Lounges sites have always maintained that they are ‘entertainment platforms’ and have not profited from any gambling. Valve, the developer of CSGO, stepped in last June as the turmoil around skins and underage betting raged and its cease and desist letters suggest it didn’t agree with this viewpoint.
Following this dispute a statement from the Lounges sites in the summer stated that they would be looking into acquiring a legal gambling licence. In mid August a further notice on the site stated that it would be closing its virtual items betting function in certain regions (16 countries) but continuing as an entertainment and information platform with new features set to be announced.
CSGOLounge was the largest site offering skins betting prior to this move and ESBReport reported that in “July 2016 CSGOLounge was the world’s largest skin gambling website, taking in the equivalent of $38 million in handle in the month of July alone, an equivalent of roughly 40,000 skins per match”.
September saw a comeback from CSGOLounge with a new coin based betting system, which it was said ‘entails a couple of new features including; coins, betting, rankings, notifications, and more’. In that same post, it stated that ‘We are working on a solution for items withdrawal’.
In the most recent note to users, Borewik himself stated: “Since the launch we have been working openly and honestly and always paid a lot of attention to user feedback. Cheating has never been permitted in our services. We would like to thank our users for their patience, and we are sorry that it took so long to make the decision. Thank you for your support.”
The refund program won’t be getting underway straight away and the frozen bot items will begin to be refunded from March 2017 as the post states ‘We are currently working on the technical side of the refund mechanism and legal aspects of the issue’.
The post also confirmed that on January 31st 2017 the results of the platform’s virtual coin bets game would be ‘summarised’ and that the most active users will receive rewards with a prize fund that amounts to $20,000 (£16,000). Coin balances will then be set to their default condition on February 1st.