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I focus almost exclusively on PvP, whether solo, small gang, or large bloc warfare. In the past, I've been a miner, mission runner, and faction warfare jockey. I'm particularly interested in helping high-sec players get into 0.0 combat.

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Eve Gambling Is Gone, But It Isn't Evil

The announcement of changes to the Eve end-user licensing agreement came down today, and the big story is the banning of isk gambling sites. Eve-bet, IWantIsk, etc. are all going to be going away as of Ascension.

Well, not quite, IWI and another group I've honestly never heard of are being fully banned as of today, with all assets confiscated. Both of them were involved in widespread RMT operations, apparently.

For the rest, though, finish up your bets and cash out. It's over, folks.

This has sparked a lot of discussion already among the blogging community, and I have to say I'm disturbed by the turn of some of these arguments. For instance, Wilhelm Arcturus of The Ancient Gaming Noob and member of former CFC alliance TNT referred to Eve gambling site revenue as "ill-gotten gains".

In considering it, you've got to separate the way isk is generated from how it's spent. I'm not sure I understand how a house cut of isk gambling is ill-gotten in and of itself.

Previously, I defended IWantIsk against the brutal and incredibly specious assault by members of the CFC on them. They tossed out wild accusations because IWI financed the war that put an end to the CFC. Following the brain drain that left them weak shells of their former selves, they were incapable of dealing with the coalition of enemies that wanted their blood, so they turned to meta attacks against the financiers, IWI, to try to stop the assault.

At the time, we saw no definitive evidence. They claimed they turned evidence over to CCP, but I doubt it, since a CCP investigation buoyed by clear proof wouldn't have taken eight months. At the time, the only reasonable reaction of anyone who claims to favor "innocent until proven guilty" was to assume IWI was safe until CCP told us otherwise.

Yet dozens of CFC mouthpieces who clearly never saw any of this supposed evidence were lighting the torches and grabbing their pitchforks. Let's even say everyone saw this proof; they still didn't have access to server-side info that would validate or refute it. Only CCP can really know what happened. This bandwagon condemnation was the sign of a desperate attempt to protect their crumbling empire and revealed the hollow ring of their ideology. Nothing more, nothing less.

The first time anyone in the Eve blogging community could know they were RMTing with any true certainty was with CCP's announcement earlier today. IWI and this Eve Casino were RMTing in a widespread nature. They're guilty; CCP has confirmed it with their bans.

Yet that doesn't change the fact that anyone declaring them guilty prior to today was doing so based on belief, not fact. That's okay; you can act based on beliefs. But there's a world of difference between "I believe IWI is RMTing," and "IWI is RMTing". You jumped to conclusions, but those conclusions simply happened to be correct. I hope you're never on a jury on a case involving me.

Nor does the guilt of IWI or Eve Casino mean proceeds from Eve gambling are "ill-gotten gains". You have to separate the generation of the isk from the distribution of the isk. Providing a service in exchange for isk isn't an inherently "ill-gotten" means. Does it matter what that service is? I'd argue that it isn't.

The long and short of it is that CFC pilots were upset that a group retaliated against a theft by using its isk to destroy their empire - an empire that everyone else in the game desperately wanted to destroy, and which (many would claim) was richly deserved. Should we consider ratting ill-gotten because World War Bee was partially funded by ratting proceeds? What about market trading? The generation of the isk and the spending of it on WWB is not related to the RMT they did.

Even though it's no doubt tempting for any player to RMT when they have trillions of isk, having trillions of isk isn't "bad". As humans, temptation is greatest when accompanied by great gain. Thinking you can shut down the means for a person to accrue X amount of isk as a way to limit RMT isn't feasible or fair. To do so sends the message that CCP will punish success.

By all means, punish those who violate the rules. Feel free to carefully scrutinize those who have developed the means to earn massive amounts of isk. But punishing success, or assuming those with a lot of isk will naturally RMT it, leads to very dark places.

Now, all of this is academic, of course, because the UK decision about Valve that Nosy Gamer has chronicled so carefully changes the game entirely. His read on this emerging situation and the way it might affect CCP was very much on-point.

Anyone who thinks this purging of the eve gambling sites was caused by anything but the possible implications of the UK decision is deluding himself. CCP is taking this action to avoid finding itself in Valve's situation. Full stop. The mere existence of a "cash out" in the form of RMT - even though it's condemned by CCP - is the reason why eve gambling sites are being shut down. Without that means of closing the loop - pulling money out of the system and profiting in real life - the UK would have no stake in the matter of in-game currency gambling. Yet, regardless of whether RMT violates CCP's policies, it isn't illegal in regards to real-world governments, and is thus considered a valid way to put money into something, gamble with it, and pull out more than you put in.

Doesn't this also mean alliance lotteries to raise funds for different in-game projects are not illegal as well? Don't doubt - the UK's decision to go after Valve is going to leave the Eve community weaker as a result. Most of the prizes for various player-run tournaments, for instance, came from the Eve gambling sites. As of now, there are no RMT bans for Eve-bet, for instance, who helped put on the first weekend of AT coverage and supports nearly every in-game event there is. That isn't going to happen anymore.

Let's not get into the habit of moralizing because of our in-game political allegiance or a witch hunting about RMT. It's possible to run an Eve gambling site without RMTing - the orderly wind-down of some of the other betting sites proves it. Those who condemn the service type entirely either reveal their bias or are engaging in moralizing, both of which are tedious at best, and negligent at worst.

IWI was clearly engaged in widespread RMT activity that violated the TOS. They deserved their fate, and I'd like to believe their bans would have come regardless of whether the UK decision on Valve happened or not (I'm an optimist!). But in the same way that every energy provider shouldn't be punished for Enron, I don't revel over every eve gambling site being taken down. Take out the corrupt, but keep the clean.

Disclosure: Eve-bet is an advertiser on my site (the image in the upper right corner). At no point have they asked for or I provided the content of any of my articles for review. The subject hasn't even been raised. I also have frequented multiple isk gambling sites in the past, and am generally an advocate of consensual gambling. I believe gambling venues provide a service and take a cut as payment for the opportunity to utilize the service; nothing more, nothing less.

13 comments:

  1. Just a quick correction. The ruling of the U.K. Gaming Commission affected a site that ran gambling based on FIFA 16. It is the Washington State Gaming Commission in the U.S. that is making the most serious effort of going after Valve. Also, despite a RICO charge against Valve & TMartin being thrown out of a federal court in Seattle, Washington, there are still 2 class-action suits outstanding against Valve, TMartN, and ProSyndicate.

    The issue for CCP is protecting itself from legal action. Valve is being targets by civil suits because it has the deep pockets. It's being targets by the WSCG because the commission can't really touch websites world-wide, but can seriously affect Valve, which is based in Bellevue, Washington.

    Since CCP wants to move its headquarters to London, trying to make sure that Hilmar doesn't get arrested is probably a high priority. Plus, CCP is getting a lot of venture capital, and recovering those VR startup costs nicely. I don't think they want to be the next target of people looking at them like they are a loot pinata.

    Should add one last thing. CCP confirmed at Fanfest that RMT activity was taking place in IWI and that they had temporarily banned several IWI bankers. That information probably wouldn't have come out if Bobmon hadn't tried to dress down the security team at the Security round table. It sounded like CCP was giving IWI one last chance to clean up its act. Based on the dev blog, it appears they didn't.

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    1. Thanks for the clarification. I'm waiting for your blog post on the subject to comment with, "Looks like you were absolutely, 100% right, mate." Kudos for digging into this one. You hit it out of the park.

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  2. Totally unsurprising that the bitterest of irrational believers are now crowing from the rooftops about their correctness.

    Understandable, considering the scar of impotence forced upon their psyche by losing after being assured they were always going to be the winners, but embarrassing at the same time.

    After all, they still lost.

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  3. I will just enjoy the irony that gambling in essence a scam. And the Goons who are the most vocal about the right to scam in Eve. Have attacked gambling on several fronts. Some do protest too much me thinks.

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    1. I don't see how gambling is a scam. There are statistical probabilities to every outcome in gambling - the information is all there if you try to educate yourself about it, and whether you participate or not is entirely under your control.

      A bad or unprofitable decision isn't a scam. A scam would be loaded dice, tilted tables, non-standard decks of cards, etc. that deceives the player about the odds. That doesn't happen in gambling.

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    2. "That doesn't happen in *regulated* gambling."

      FTFY.

      Also I think by "in essence a scam" he was getting at the fact that gambling always pays out less than is put in, so looked at from a stepped back perspective it's similar to a scam.

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  4. Just commenting to point out that to the best of my knowledge which is admittedly not 100% complete IWISK's owner and the upper tier of bankers have never engaged in RMT.

    For the simple reason that its not worth it. There is no reason to risk our entire space faring future for a quick buck.

    Best Regards
    Dante Karusaka
    Social Manager for IWISK

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  5. The thing is, a lot of us were citing RMT long before WWB, and you can claim it was all just belief if you want, that doesn't change the simple reality that there were already compelling reasons to believe IWI were RMTing, not least of which because they'd already had bans take place because of RMTing in the past. Conclusions were not jumped to, they were a step away. The funny thing is you make a reference to a courtroom jury, as if a jury are simply there to echo the facts. That's not the case, otherwise you wouldn't need twelve people, just one. Juries take on board the arguments put forward by both sides then come to a decision they believe to be just based on those arguments. The simple reality is that long before the Imperium decided to publicly push the IWI RMT angle, the accusations were there because it was quite obvious that was going on. Ask yourself why sites like EVE-Bet, BIG or EOH didn't get those accusations yet IWI has had them for years.

    And of course the Imperium will smug it up, and rightly so. They stated this was happening, everyone went nuts telling them how they were just saying that because of the war and hey what do you know, they were right. It amuses me that you talk about how they didn't have evidence thus IWI must have been innocent yet you're only assuming yourself there was no evidence. Any evidence would not have been able to be posted publicly, and I can see an investigation into an operation the size of IWI taking a considerable amount of time even with evidence.

    As for ill-gotten gains, I imagine it's because Wilhelm, like many of us, don’t believe that earning ISK through 3rd party sites that cannot be fought in-game is a legitimate method of gaining ISK even if you ignore the potential for shilling out ISK to bump profits above a house cut. It’s nothing to do with spending ISK on attacking a given group. And yes, that means I do condemn the services and yes, that shows my bias. I don’t like eve gambling sites, I don’t think they should have been allowed to operate as long as they have and I’m more overjoyed about this change than I was when Somer got shut down. Most of all I’m glad we’ve finally reached a stage that CCP are willing to make big decisions like this without buckling to pressure from upset players who think it’s the end of the world.

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    1. You're conflating "not found guilty" and "innocent". At no point did I say IWI was innocent. I simply acknowledged the truth facing everyone - players have absolutely no way to know if IWI is engaging in RMT, since all of the actual proof is server-side and accessible only to CCP. It's not possible for players to know they were guilty; they could only believe.

      I agree with you that it's good for CCP to make these decisions without buckling to player pressure, but this decision had nothing to do with in-game activity; it's purely the result of real-world legal conclusions about gambling and the interplay between in-game and real-world currency.

      What is your stance on Care 4 Kids? It's quite possible that, if successful, they can generate as much isk as IWI. Let's suppose they decided to fund the annihilation of GSF as an entity altogether. Should that be permitted? What about TMC.com writers? They can earn isk without any disruptible in-game method, 250 mil per article. Should that be banned as well?

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  6. "It's not possible for players to know they were guilty; they could only believe."

    True, but you say that as if it's abinary system. Like either you have absolute proof and know or no proof and therefore simply believe. The reality is there were enough public warning signs that IWI were engaged in RMT that to believe they weren't was incredibly naive.

    "What is your stance on Care 4 Kids? It's quite possible that, if successful, they can generate as much isk as IWI."

    Their methods of generating revenue though are through in-game donations. IWI generated revenue by allowing players to pay for an external services. If Care4Kids swapped to a system that allowed people to pay for out of game service as a method to generate income then I'd be against it. Whether or not they chose to annihilate an in-game entity is irrelevant, it's how they generate the income that's relevant.

    "What about TMC.com writers? They can earn isk without any disruptible in-game method, 250 mil per article. Should that be banned as well?"

    Absolutely. I think paying for out of game services with in-game isk is bad. If it were up to me it would all be banned.

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    1. If that was what the hordes of CFC players truly believed, we'd be hearing, "See, it turns out we were right!" That's not the tenor of the reaction, though. They're going through with, "We told you!" and acting as if this only restates what they claimed; it doesn't. CCP's data is worth 10x what we as players might think.

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    2. It kinda does though. They did tell you. Whether or not you are ignorant of the fact they've had a much higher density of bans in the past pointing to institutional RMTing (something Nosy pointed out) is irrelevant, the signs were there, some of us did point them out and all the flailing aside, we were right. I'm one of the many that pointed it out long before WWB too. It wasn't exactly subtle.

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