Two men who admitted breaching gambling laws over a website that allowed children to bet on Premier League football matches using a virtual currency earned in the video game Fifa have been ordered to pay fines and costs.
Dylan Rigby, 33, and Craig Douglas, 32, pleaded guilty to breaches of the 2005 Gambling Act during a hearing at Birmingham magistrates court. Rigby was ordered to pay fines and costs of £174,000, while Douglas, a professional YouTuber, must pay £91,000.
The court heard that Douglas, known by the YouTube alias NepentheZ, promoted to his more than 1 million subscribers the FutGalaxy “social gaming” website, which had no age restrictions and allowed minors to use a credit card to place bets in a virtual currency earned on Fifa.
A court hearing on Monday was told that the unregulated site generated pre-tax profit of about £96,000 between July 2015 and February 2016. One 14-year-old boy lost £586 in a day.
Rigby, of Colchester, Essex, and Douglas, of Ferndown, Dorset, were fined £24,000 and £16,000 respectively by the district judge, Jack McGarva, who said the men had not been honest about their finances.
Ordering Rigby to pay prosecution costs of £150,000 and Douglas £75,000, McGarva said: “The aggravating features of these offences are they were committed over a relatively long period of about six months. Children were gambling on your site. It’s impossible for me to know how many or the effect on them.
“In my opinion, both of you were aware of the use of the site by children and the attractiveness of it to children. At the very least, you both turned a blind eye to it.”
During the opening of the case, the court was shown a video of Douglas from his YouTube channel saying to the camera: “You don’t have to be 18 for this, because this is a virtual currency.”
Douglas admitted a charge of being an officer of a company that provided facilities for gambling without an operating licence and a further allegation relating to the advertising of unlawful gambling.
Rigby admitted two charges relating to the provision of facilities for gambling and a third offence linked to advertising illegal gambling.
FutGalaxy took bets on matches played in the UK, France, Germany and Italy.
Fifa players can earn the virtual currency by winning matches and competitions in the game’s ultimate team mode. The court heard that sites such as FutGalaxy were “parasitic” for games including Fifa, which forbids players from buying or selling virtual coins on black market websites.
Its publisher, Electronic Arts, has banned tens of thousands of accounts for buying and selling coins outside the game.
Gambling involving video game currencies and virtual items has become a major enterprise. Last year it was reported that the practice of gambling on in-game items in titles such as Counter-Strike: Global Offensive could be worth more than $7bn (£5.6bn).
Philip Kolvin QC, prosecuting on behalf of the Gambling Commission, said gaming, betting and lottery features were offered by FutGalaxy, which evaded gambling regulations over a long period and had 1.4 million followers on Twitter.
Stephen Walsh, defending, said Douglas “earned a good living” as a YouTuber, lawfully promoting a wide range of other products.
“They accept that there is a disparity between them,” he said. “Mr Rigby accepts he was the prime mover and Mr Douglas’s role was as an advertiser and a promoter.”
Minutes after the fine was issued, Douglas responded on Twitter:
Source: The Guardian