- »Counter-Strike Pros Accused of Match Fixing
Counter-Strike Pros Accused of Match Fixing
Many politicians and advocacy groups focus on traditional forms of gambling when warning of cheating and unscrupulous behavior. They now have to look at the latest activity: competitive egaming.
Evidently, there is a match-fixing problem in the esports and egaming world. And there are now six young players facing charges for it in Australia.
The men ranged in age from 19-22 years of age. Australian police took them into custody at the end of August on charges of engaging in conduct that corrupts a betting outcome and using corrupt conduct information for betting purposes.
All of the male players competed in Counter-Strike: Global Offensive tournaments. Most young players know it as CS:GO. The first-person shooter video game can be played in teams, and they compete in massive esports tournaments.
People around the world bet on esports tournaments like CS:GO, which makes any action to intentionally alter the outcome of the games a crime. It is similar to throwing a game in football or missing shots on purpose in professional basketball.
These men were charged with match-fixing as it pertains to esports. They allegedly arranged the outcomes of matches and placed bets on their own matches. In all, there were 20 bets placed in five matches, setting off an investigation that started in March and resulted in the late-August arrests.
Victoria police, along with detectives from the Sporting Integrity Intelligence Unit and Organized Crime Intelligence Unit, arrested six people, two 20-year-olds and a 22-year-old from Mill Park, and a 19-year-old from South Morang. Western Australia police then arrested two 20-year-old men in Perth.
As reported by the Guardian, Victoria Police Assistant Commissioner Neil Paterson said, “These warrants highlight that police will take any reports of suspicious or criminal activity within esports seriously, and we encourage anyone with information to come forward.”
The investigation remains ongoing.
Esports Growth is Fertile Ground
As with anything involving betting, there are opportunities for criminal activity. Monitoring esports as with any professional sports is necessary.
Paterson said as much. “Esports is really an emerging sporting industry and with that will come the demand for betting availability on the outcomes of tournaments and matches. It’s important that police and other agencies within the law enforcement, gaming and betting industries continue to work together to target any suspicious activity.”
Esports is popular around the world. In 2017, the industry was estimated to be worth approximately $696 million. This included an audience of more than 385 million people.
There are numerous estimates for the 2019 revenue. The most quoted are from gaming industry analytics firm Newzoo, which proposes that 454 million viewers will push revenue over $1 billion in 2019.
The reason for the steep increases boils down to popularity. Advertising, sponsorships, competitions, and streaming are all contributing to the growth of the esports industry as a whole.
Newzoo says brand investments through advertising, sponsorships, and media rights have tripled since 2015. They will likely comprise 82% of nearly $1.1 billion in 2019, which amounts to approximately $897 million.
Newzoo goes as far as to predict that esports in the global market will be worth more than $1.6 billion by 2021.
Warnings Abounded of Esports Match-Fixing
The Guardian warned of a match-fixing problem in the esports world more than a year before the latest Australian arrests. In fact, there were already numerous scandals that should have served as warnings.
In 2014 and 2015, allegations of match-fixing in CS:GO were strong enough for Valve to ban members of two high-profile teams. That happened in North America. There were no official criminal charges, though.
In South Korea in 2016, a StarCraft II player was prosecuted for fixing two matches, and he was sentenced to 18 months in prison for the crime. He also paid a KRW70 million fine and was suspended from competitive esports for three years, though South Korea banned him for life.
Match-fixing has been documented in most of the major games, including CS:GO, League of Legends, and Overwatch.
UK lawyer and Esports Integrity Coalition Commissioner Ian Smith pointed to betting fraud and match-fixing as the biggest threats to esports. He estimated that illegal esports betting could be worth $2 billion, which is more than double the legitimate revenue from the games.
Smith said the US and Asia are the two places in the world with the most illegal betting on esports, though the most incidences take place in China.
The biggest problem seems to be a lack of an oversight organization that monitors the games on an international level. Another issue is the inability of law enforcement agencies to know how to monitor esports for crimes and properly investigate allegations, much less how to prosecute them.
Australian authorities were attentive to tips and complaints, and their follow-up netted the arrest of the six young men. It is unclear when they will face a judge in their cases.