A few days ago, a tiny YouTube channel called HonorTheCall uploaded a video loaded with evidence that gaming personalities Trevor “TmarTn” Martin and Tom “ProSyndicate” Cassell owned and operated the Counter-Strike skin gambling site CSGO Lotto.
That alone wasn’t controversial. But Cassell and Martin had also both uploaded a number of videos in which they betted on the service—without disclosing their controlling interests. They were playing with house money and pretending like they shared the same stakes as their audience. “See guys? Anyone can win big on CSGO Lotto!” When the community realized that the site had no failsafe to prevent underaged kids from gambling, things went nuclear quickly.
H3H3, one of YouTube’s best media pundits, excoriated them with some additional research, and TmarTn has issued (and deleted) about three different apologies. It feels like things are just getting started, and avalanche of lawsuits, bans, and some deeply introspective questions about the role of gambling in esports are on the horizon.
But we shouldn’t forget who started this all. HonorTheCall busted this story wide open—citizen journalism at its best. And now he’s right in the middle of one of the biggest esports stories of the year. We wanted to learn how it all happened, how a small YouTuber rattled the industry with a single industry. We talked to HonorTheCall, who asked to remain anonymous, about how he reported the video—and what he plans to do next.
How did you uncover this scandal? When did you catch wind that TMarTn and ProSyndicate owned CSGO Lotto?
I randomly saw a few tweets about Faze clan members faking CS:GO gambling reactions and winnings. I found the original story on faze clan at CS:GO News channel. While I was watching the video, I thought to myself, “TmarTn also does CS:GO case openings and betting.” I went to watch TmarTn’s videos again where I noticed that ProSyndicate gambles with him as well.
CSGOlotto.com caught my attention because this was the only site used by both TmarTn and Syndicate. I knew TmarTn has a page on Linkedin and found nothing about csgolotto.com on his page.
From here I just used Google to its maximum capabilities by putting in CSGO Lotto, Orlando, Florida, Trevor Martin, TmarTn, TmarTn Enterprises etc. and also mix matched keywords to find new webpages. One of the first page that came up was from a website called visualate.com. This page had Trevor Martin listed as President and Tom Cassell as VP.
What was the response like when you first uploaded the video? Did people not want to believe what you were saying was true? How long did it take to catch fire?
The initial reaction was somewhat positive because all my 1,500ish subscribers thought something is wrong with gambling on your own site. When the video started hitting social networks, more viewers stopped by. But unfortunately they had a hard time grasping how “Conflict of Interest” works. With TmarTn’s and his company damage control, more of his fanbase flocked my video and started disliking it. Over night, there were 200 more dislikes than likes. I started questioning myself. But in my mind, I always knew I was right.
When I uploaded the second video where I clearly show TmarTn lying to his fans, it didn’t catch any fire. Forget fire; it didn’t even catch a fume. TmarTn double-crossed me and went to John Scarce’s news channel to lie more. I always knew one thing that if I don’t promote my own video, it will die and so will the story. It took me a full day of typing replies on my comments on my first video asking everyone to tweet at Scarce so that I can take the story to a bigger stage.
Within the time frame of first two videos, I had typed so much in comments section that my wrists and hands were hurting. But at the end of the day I was able to put my story on Scarce’s channel.
You’ve been dealing with a lot of spam from TMarTn and ProSyndicate’s fans, has that bothered you at all?
I have a very positive mindset. But when I started to get hate from their fans, it did affect me. I remember I couldn’t sleep properly when the dislike count on the first video went past the like count. But I still believed in myself and the tide turned the following day. I had always heard that you have to have the ability to filter a lot of noise on YouTube. So, I started practicing that and ignoring the hate/spam. Also, I had ton of support from my viewers to fend off the hate from the fan boys.
What was it like after H3H3 made a video about your video? Did you see a bunch of new viewership after that?
It felt like how Jon Snow felt after seeing the reinforcements. H3H3 contacted me after my second video wondering if I would allow him to run the story. At that point he was also doing his own research into CS:GO gambling and he loved what I did so far. How could I have said no to such a request? I saw a tremendous spike in viewership and unimaginable amount of support against the fan boys.
Why were they so secretive? It seems like it was only a matter of time before it was found out. You have to think if they were upfront from the beginning this never would’ve gone nuclear.
These two were shady and secretive because they thought they would get away with all this. It would have always gone nuclear because, as two popular YouTube personalities, you shouldn’t be running an unregulated gambling website.
At the end of the day, it is all about money for these guys. It is very wrong on their end that they assumed this was all legal and okay to pitch to their underage fans.
This is an unregulated industry and that is why there is no “About Us” page on these websites. They were secretive because no law says they have to write on their website that they own it. Having said all that, they made the biggest mistake of gambling in their own casino and doing fraudulent activities in front of the camera.
A lot of people are saying that TMarTn and ProSyndicate are just the beginning, and the ownership of a lot of CS:GO betting sites are more shady than people think. Do you think this is just the start of a much wider scandal in the community?
Yes it is definitely just the start. PsiSyndicate, another YouTuber from England, I believe has come forward saying he faked some winnings for a CS:GO gambling site. There are some well known YouTube personalities rumored to own CS:GO gambling sites. Sooner or later it will all come out.
What’s next for you? Your channel is obviously a lot more prominent since you uncovered this. Are there any other investigations you’re working on?
I cannot confirm or deny the fact that I am working on other investigations. I only like to speak about a topic when I have some proof to back myself. As far as my channel is concerned, I started as a Call of Duty news channel but after working on this story, I believe going forward I will be more focused on YouTube related news and not just Call of Duty.
Last but not least, is it important for people in esports to be more wary about the major personalities involved? Do you think corruption is more common than people realize?
I believe it is very important for people in esports to keep an eye on professional players and their dealings with brands and companies. You wouldn’t ever see a professional athlete from the NBA or NFL promote something unethical and low as underage gambling and get away with it. I never really thought in my wildest dreams that a YouTuber that I started watching back in 2011, and someone that I looked up to, would end up running an underage gambling empire. The fact that they were promoting gambling to underage kids ticked me of the most when I started my investigation.