FIFA Ultimate Team YouTubers plead guilty to violating UK gambling laws

In what is believed to be the U.K. Gambling Commission’s first video game-related prosecution, two Britons have pleaded guilty to operating an unlicensed gambling website related to EA Sports’ FIFA series of soccer video games, reports BBC News.

Craig “NepentheZ” Douglas, 32, pleaded guilty to being an officer of an unlicensed gambling facility and to a separate charge of advertising illegal gambling. His business partner, Dylan Rigby, 33, admitted to two charges of the former, and one charge of the latter.

Douglas and Rigby ran the website Fut Galaxy, which allows people to use FUT Coins — virtual currency from the FIFA video games’ FIFA Ultimate Team mode — for activities like placing bets on real-life sporting events. Users can then withdraw their funds and put them back into the game. Douglas also runs a YouTube channel, NepentheZ, where more than 1.45 million subscribers view his daily FIFA Ultimate Team videos.

The men have not yet been sentenced, but Douglas said on Twitter that “a substantial fine was the outcome” of his guilty plea. Under the Gambling Act, the maximum fine for one violation of the law is £5,000, although both Douglas and Rigby pleaded guilty to multiple charges. It is unclear if they are also facing jail time; the law indicates that violators could be imprisoned for as long as 51 weeks.

Douglas apologized to his family, friends and fans on Twitter, where he has more than 680,000 followers, and said he would post a video “in due course” to give his side of the story. “The worst year of my life ended today,” he began, in a contrite series of tweets:

The worst year of my life concluded today. I have so much to say, but you’ll take whatever judgement you feel needed from the press.

— NepentheZ (@NepentheZ) February 6, 2017

I want to thank all of those that have supported me through my journey. I would understand any viewers choice to no longer watch my content

— NepentheZ (@NepentheZ) February 6, 2017

I owe a huge apology to my family and close friends for putting them through this process, and appreciate all those that stood by me.

— NepentheZ (@NepentheZ) February 6, 2017

I also owe a huge apology and debt of gratitude to my loyal supporters. Even if this is the end of our journey together, I’m grateful.

— NepentheZ (@NepentheZ) February 6, 2017

I’ll upload a video in due course presenting my side of the story. The facts remain I plead guilty to 2 charges, and a substantial fine

— NepentheZ (@NepentheZ) February 6, 2017

Was the outcome. I’d like once again to apologise to everyone and thank you all for being a part of my life. May our journey go forth.

— NepentheZ (@NepentheZ) February 6, 2017

So-called skin gambling has become a huge business online, with billions of dollars’ worth of bets placed on Valve’s Counter-Strike: Global Offensive alone, according to a Bloomberg report from April. Last summer — a few months before bringing charges against Rigby and Douglas — the U.K. Gambling Commission published a report on the growing presence of gambling in video games.

We’ve reached out to Electronic Arts and the U.K. Gambling Commission for comment, and will update this article with any information we receive.

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