- »Victoria Investigates Overwatch eSports League
Victoria Investigates Overwatch eSports League
In a matter of less than two months, the Victorian police went from one investigation to another involving esports teams and betting.
Six Counter-Strike players were arrested in August and faced charges for match-fixing. Now, an Overwatch Contenders team is also under investigation for betting crimes. These crimes might even be linked to organized crime.
New Charges for Esports Pros
Another group of professional esports players are under investigation again.
ABC reported that an Australian-based team in the Overwatch Contenders league is being probed for information pertaining to possible links to organized crime. More precisely, the ownership of that team is the most likely culprit.
The Victoria Police Department – specifically, the Sport Integrity Intelligence Unit – is investigating the matter.
Overwatch Contenders is a league for professional gamers who have not yet made it to the prime Overwatch league. The Contenders is somewhat of a training ground for players who aspire to play in the top league.
There are eight Australian-based teams in the Contenders league at this time. All of these teams could be the subject of the investigation. Those teams are Athletico, Ground Zero Gaming, Legacy Esports, Melbourne Mavericks, Warriors, Order, Mindfreak G, and Sydney Drop Bears.
According to The Gamer, there were “betting anomalies” that triggered tips and the ensuing investigation.
Counter-Strike Charges Still Pending
The six young men arrested in the aforementioned Counter-Strike investigation were Counter-Strike: Global Offensive (CS: GO) tournament players.
The men ranged in age from 19 to 22. Four were arrested in Victoria, and the other two were taken into custody in Western Australia.
They were charged with match-fixing, arranging the outcomes of CS:GO tournaments and placing bets on their own matches. There were five matches that started in March 2019 that uncovered 20 bets that were determined by authorities to be illegal.
Victoria Police Assistant Commissioner Neil Paterson noted that police do take all criminal activity suspicions seriously. Therefore, esports is no different than any other part of society.
In fact, Paterson said that esports is such a fast-growing industry that the demand for wagering options grows with it. People want to bet on the tournaments and matches. And with that betting comes law enforcement oversight. “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,” he said.
Ripe for Corruption?
That same ABC report that revealed the Overwatch investigation revealed widespread concerns. After all, esports is a $1 billion industry with the potential for corruption in it.
Paterson commented to ABC that so many people are becoming involved in esports, all of them do not have sparkling reputations. He said, “I could absolutely guarantee that this wouldn’t be the only incidence of match fixing or betting anomalies on esports environments in the Australian market.”
He also asserted that the motivation for these crimes is greed. “It’s money,” he said.
Paterson noted that the Counter-Strike players were alleged to have illegally won $30,000. However, that was a lot of money to them. Those were not players at the top of the field who make a great deal of money from sponsorships and tournament victories. Most of them are not making enough money, and match-fixing can look appealing.
Some players don’t even know that it is a crime. Their youth and relatively life inexperience may lead them to believe that the details of match fixing are not serious or criminal in nature.
University of Sydney lecturer Mark Johnson told ABC that corruption has spread so easily through the esports world because of a general lack of understanding about the industry. He said the video game world is worth more than films and music put together.
“I don’t really watch traditional sports,” Johnson said, “but I know what they are, whereas if you don’t watch esports, you don’t know anything about them.”
Young Men Remain Vulnerable
Through the investigation of the Counter-Strike team, Paterson got to know many of the esports players and fans. He said many are likely to be minors or very young adults, and they often hail from middle-class suburban families.
The problem goes beyond esports and into the gambling world in general.
Paterson said, “The sheer volume of young men involved in gambling, both in high school and in universities, is at epidemic proportions. What I’m not seeing is anyone doing anything particularly about that.”
Some of the concern arises from a lack of interest in the topic by the esports industry. Those at the top of the business ladders may be busy with the exponential growth rate of their games and the opportunities. Meanwhile, they ignore the potential for corruption.
Experts in the field claim that the esports industry’s response to charges involving players as in the Counter-Strike situation are generally ignored and not addressed.