This week saw six Australian gamers arrested in the first-ever instance of esports match-fixing to hit the nation.
The Victoria Police revealed the six individuals were betting on their own CS:GO gameplay and then intentionally throwing the matches. It marks a dark moment for the development of competitive gaming and esports betting in Australia.
The match-fixing investigation
The events are alleged to have taken place during a Counter-Strike: Global Offensive tournament in March. Officials estimate five or more matches might have been affected, and more than 20 fraudulent esports bets were placed.
The arrested gamers were all between the ages of 19 and 22 and living in the state of Victoria. Sporting Integrity Intelligence Unit conducted further investigation, along with detectives from the Organised Crime Intelligence Unit in the city of Perth.
Suspicions were raised after an unidentified betting agency noticed unusual betting patterns in advance of March’s Counter-Strike event. Following raids on the gamers’ homes in outer Melbourne, the men were released pending further inquiries.
The prevalence of match-fixing
Australia has tough laws regarding match-fixing that could result in prison sentences of up to 10 years if the men are found guilty.
The Australian Sporting Integrity Intelligence Unit was set up in 2013 to monitor the integrity of all sports and racing events. This marks the first time esports match-fixing has been uncovered in the nation.
Unfortunately, match-fixing writ large is no stranger to esports such as Counter-Strike: Global Offensive. August 2015 saw one of North America’s biggest esports teams, iBUYPOWER, hit by accusations that they had thrown what should have been an easy match against NetcodeGuides.com. This game saw iBUYPOWER players laughing as they lost rounds and going in for all manner of bizarre CS:GO moves.
It was later found that iBUYPOWER allowed the other team to win the game 16-4 as multiple unusual bets had been placed just before the match kicked off. The guilty players used so-called “smurf accounts” to play big money bets via the CS:GO Lounge. Once the allegations were confirmed, ESEA had no option but to ban the seven players from tournament play.
Ultimately, Australia suffering its first instance of esports match-fixing is hugely troubling. The concept of competitive gaming is still fairly new in the nation, and esports were even featured at the Australian Open earlier this year. But with these shocking revelations, esports’ reputation may be taking a dive.