Victoria Police are investigating a second potential case of eSports match-fixing in Australia in as many months. No arrests have been made, but police are investigating at least one of eight Australian Overwatch Contenders teams.
The Sporting Integrity Intelligence Unit of Victoria Police is investigating what it calls betting anomalies. Betting on the outcomes of eSports matches continues to increase in popularity, but betting markets are still relatively small. It does not take a large bet to flag up potential issues, one of $1,000 or $2,000 is enough.
Neil Paterson, the assistant commissioner for Victoria Police spoke to ABC about the match-fixing. Paterson said, “There is no test of a fit and proper person to be engaged as an owner of an eSports team. We are seeing people encroach on that area that have reputations that [mean they] probably… shouldn’t be involved in this part of esports. I could absolutely guarantee that this wouldn’t be the only [alleged] incidence of match fixing or betting anomalies on esports environments in the Australian market.”
Police have not named which Australian team they are looking into in an attempt to uncover links to organised crime. The eight recognised Australian Overwatch Contenders teams are:
Overwatch is a team-based multiplayer first-person shooter video game from Blizzard Entertainment. Two teams of six players choose from more than 30 characters known as heroes. These teams work together to secure and defend control points on a map, or escort a payload across the map with a strict time limit.
The game launched in May 2016 on Windows, PlayStation 4 and Xbox One and is a huge commercial success. Blizzard boasted of US$1 billion in revenue in the first year of Overwatch. Forty-million players enjoyed Overwatch within two years of launching.
Skilled Overwatch players battle it out to compete in the Overwatch League. The game’s elite players play a series of matches in Overwatch League with the 2019 competition featuring a $5 million prize pool.
San Francisco Storm won the 2019 Overwatch League and its $1.5 million prize. Jay “sinatraa” Won secured the title of the tournament’s Most Valuable Player (MVP) during the Overwatch League.
This latest match-fixing case has not hit the same headlines as the CS:GO scandal from last month. This is because, while the crime is serious, it took part in Overwatch Contenders.
Overwatch Contenders is a minor league, a feeder if you will, for the Overwatch League. Teams from around the world use Overwatch Contenders for blooding new players and recruiting new members. All eight Australian Overwatch teams compete in this lesser league.
Sydney Drop Bears won all three seasons in Australia in 2017 with ORDER scooping both seasons in 2019.
Details are scarce as to what triggered the police’s interest in this Overwatch case. More details, however, emerged regarding the recent CS:GO match-fixing investigation that resulted in six Australian gamers being arrested.
Paterson revealed two Australian players told their associates to bet on fixed matches. Police arrested six gamers, but Paterson believes dozens more could face the same fate. Elite CS:GO players can earn millions of dollars thanks to sponsorship deals and prize money. Those arrested are at at the other end of the scale. The estimated $30,000 won illegally is not a massive sum, it represents far more than any of them earned from video games.
An anonymous player who competed in the suspicious matches said he was unaware of any wrongdoing. He also said he bets on CS:GO matches, although only on top-tier matches and never in matches he is competing.
Another anon player, who is not under investigation, but believed to be on the team that saw players arrested, told ABC they did not throw their matches.
“We weren’t a serious team at this point. We knew we weren’t going to win, but we weren’t intentionally trying to lose. Some of us used to be good, but we’re sort of washed-up players. We didn’t really care, we weren’t committed to playing professionally anymore. This was like our final run.”
The CS:GO case is still ongoing and could drag more players into the spotlight. Each of the six arrested players faces a potential 10-years in prison if found guilty.