YouTuber Craig Douglas, a.k.a NepentheZ pleaded guilty to breaching gambling laws after he encouraged his young subscribers to play an online football game – owned by his business partner Dylan Rigby – which costs real money to play.
According to the BBC, Douglas promoted “social gaming” site FutGalaxy to his 1,436,000 subscribers over six months.
The game, which doesn’t restrict access to young users, allows players to use virtual coins earned in football video game Fifa to bet on real-life Premier League matches. Users are then able to transfer their winnings back into Fifa. However, players can also buy and sell these virtual coins with real money. One 14-year-old lost £586 in one day gambling with coins bought on a credit card.
Douglas was forced to pay fines and costs of £91,000 at Birmingham magistrates court on Monday.
Rigby, meanwhile, was told to pay £174,000. District judge Jack McGarva told the pair, “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.” In one video, Douglas told his subscribers, “You don’t have to be 18 for this, because this is virtual currency.”
After the hearing, Douglas tweeted an apology to his friends and family, and thanked fans who “stood by” him.
Games that trade real money for virtual coins have existed for years online, however gambling for virtual currencies has become a major trend more recently. According to The Guardian, in 2016 gambling on virtual coins and in-game items was worth over £5.6 billion.