Two men are on trial in the United Kingdom after having been charged with offenses under the country’s Gambling Act in September. Craig Douglas and Dylan Rigby stand accused of promoting a lottery and advertising unlawful gambling, having operated a website that allowed visitors to wager real-world money in an attempt to win the virtual currency used in EA’s FIFA video game franchise.
Douglas is better known as Nepenthez, the moniker he uses on his highly successful YouTube channel. More than 1.3 million people subscribe to his channel, which is still receiving upwards of 100,000 views on its daily FIFA 17 videos.
This case is thought to be the first prosecution of its kind relating to video games, according to a report by BBC News. FIFA is one of many titles that feature content that can be handed from one user to another, facilitating the kind of lottery than Douglas and Rigby are accused of operating.
While this case pertains to a lottery, other sites might offer up a game of chance like a slot machine, or allow users to bet on the outcome of a virtual contest — a football match taking place in FIFA 17, for example. Players typically wager either virtual currency or cosmetic items used in a particular game.
Unfortunately, the fact that both virtual currency and cosmetic items have a real-world value means that these activities are tantamount to traditional gambling. Worse yet, it seems that Douglas and Rigby weren’t taking the proper measures to ensure that minors couldn’t access their service.
In June 2015, Douglas was confronted on Twitter over the fact that people under the age of 18 could access the lottery, according to a report from PCGamesN. “Let us worry about that kind of stuff, yeah,” he replied in a now-deleted tweet, before telling the individual to “go annoy someone else.”
This case could set a precedent for future legal action relating to this new form of online gambling. It’s perhaps past time for legislation to be tightened up, as estimates indicate that the global market for betting on video games exceeds 4 billion pounds (equivalent to about $4.87 billion).
Both Douglas and Rigby pleaded not guilty at Birmingham Magistrates’ Court on Friday. The case has been adjourned until February 6, 2017.