Inside the Seedy World of Video Game Gambling Groups

DuckTales 2 auction for Nintendo, ending at a very high price.

Acquiring that sought after or rare video game can be tough. The market has spiked in the last 5-6 years, and prices are through the roof.  A game like DuckTales 2, which could be had for $40 a few years ago, is now over $150.00. Add in the box and the manual, and prices get out of control very fast.  Over the years thrift stores like Goodwill have wised up, and started listing more on their sites, preventing both collectors and resellers from obtaining a good deal in store. Independent stores have no choice but to go with the market value, as people would stop trading in games to their business if they were undervalued.  Collectors that are strapped for cash have turned to desperate methods for obtaining these games, whether to have them sit pretty on their shelf, or actually play them. One popular method is making or purchasing a reproduction, which is essentially a bootleg copy. But those who want the legit thing have turned to something worse, gambling.

No we aren't talking about slot machines, or black-jack, we are talking about gambling sessions set up by users on social media. Sometimes these are called "Game Wheels" or "Game Lotteries", where users can purchase an entry in the hopes that a seemingly random number generator will draw their ticket and they will win the prize.  There are a certain amount of entries, so each contest is limited. The drawing does not start until all entries are fulfilled. If it looks like a contest isn't going to fill all slots, then it is cancelled and players who did enter are refunded. To enter, you have to have a PayPal account, and submit to the administrator the proper amount with a note about which drawing you are entering. When paying, the user must select "Friends and Family" to prevent the administrator from receiving a PayPal fee. Once all entries are collected a livestream is created and the number generator is run, announcing the winner. There are no returns or refunds, so if the item you have won shows up damaged or not at all, you are out of luck.

The results of a finished "Mini" contest.

There are so many flaws in this game, that my brain is frazzled that anyone would ever participate in one of these. A Facebook account is easy to create, allowing the administrators of the game group to easily create fake submissions, to favor their odds. So, if you and one other legitimate person are 2 of 30 entries and paid $40 each for your entry on a chance to win a $200 Power Blade 2 cartridge, but the other 28 entries are faked, most likely the administrator just cashed in $80 and kept their game.  Even if this was proved to be true, the buyer has very little recourse as they "gifted" the payment to the game administrator. The way they get around this is by saying each person doesn't pay for an entry or a ticket, but a digital photo that will be sent to them if they don't win the game. This is definitely a gray area, and still illegal in most areas when it comes down to it. Okay, so maybe a scam, or maybe not but you never know!  Now here is where it gets REALLY shady. There are drawings called "Minis" where you are paying less money to try to win additional entries to win the big prize. On that $40 Power Blade 2 contest, you would pay $12 to enter the Mini to try to win additional entries in the main Power Blade 2 contest. Winner might receive 5 additional entries, loser is out another $12. Crazy.

Earthbound is no stranger to the retro video game craze.

Lets take a look at a real example I found in one of these groups. Earthbound for Super Nintendo is a very sought after role playing game. Video Game Price Charting says today the average price on a complete copy with box, manual, and guide is $660.00.  Okay great, lets see what the contest has to offer. To enter it is only $90.00, wow! And there are only 10 slots available! Great odds! If all 10 entries were sold, this alone nets $900.00 to the administrator, with no fees. But wait! There is a "Mini" for an additional $6, users have a chance to win up to 3 additional entries in the main Earthbound contest, and there are 45 entries available, so that takes away 3 of the $90 slots, which means the administrator now at $630.00. If you are following along, the mini will net the administrator an additional $270, and is now able to sell the $6 entries to the mini easier than the original $90 ticket. This allows him to now proceed with running the game and still retain the original $900 that was gifted to him. If everything is on the up and up, the game is run and some lucky person potentially just got a CIB Earthbound for Super Nintendo for $6.00. Or maybe the account was fake, and the administrator just made a boat load of money and was able to keep his game. Or maybe he never had the game to begin with. Hmm.

Details on the main Earthbound contest for contestants.

The "Mini" contest for a chance to obtain more entries into the main Earthbound drawing.

These groups tend to be shut down by Facebook and other social media sites when they are discovered and reported. Groups have become smarter in that they are removing "Contest", "Game Wheel" and other keywords that can easily identify their shadiness. However if they are reported, they are usually shut down. It's just really easy for them to pop back up again, and will ultimately never be truly stopped. These people prey on the community that already has enough issues to deal with, and are desperate to acquire some of these hard to find titles. Bottom line, stay away from this madness as the odds might not be in your favor to begin with.

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