THE WASHINGTON STATE Gambling Commission is housed in a boxy office park in Lacey, about an hour from Seattle, and run by David Trujillo, a no-nonsense agent who’s spent a career policing tribal casinos.
His staff of roughly 100 employees investigates crimes from money laundering to dogfighting, and though his budget has been cut 20 percent in the past three years, he says, “We’re doing our best to keep up.”
Early in 2016, Trujillo’s staff came to him with concerns related to another of his jobs: enforcing the state’s ban on internet gambling. Trujillo, 53, doesn’t play video games and didn’t know anything about Counter-Strike. But he was dumbstruck when his staff told him about all the money flowing into the casino sites in the form of Valve’s skins.
One of the arguments often used to justify skins gambling is that virtual items aren’t a real currency and thus aren’t subject to traditional gaming laws. That’s why the major skin gambling sites and skin cash-out sites have typically remained separate — so the gambling sites can maintain that all that’s being wagered are virtual items. But Trujillo didn’t buy a word of it. If skins were easily being exchanged for dollars, and people were winning and losing real money, he believed it was gambling.
Once it became clear to Elijah that he needed more money, he began sneaking into his parents’ wallets while they were asleep and taking photos of their other credit cards. He figured that if he spread his charges across several cards, no one would notice. “I just kind of thought, ‘YOLO,'” he recalls.
At the same time, a friend also showed him how to buy sketchy discounted $100 gift cards online and exchange them at Wal-Mart for Steam gift cards and coupons. He did that on six occasions. On his seventh try, a cashier got wise and said she was going to talk to her manager. “I ran away,” he says. “Nothing ever happened.”