Australian police have made six arrests for alleged match-fixing at an eSports tournament. Each of the gamers faces up to 10 years in prison.
Victoria police arrested the six gamers following a tip-off from a betting agency. Five matches of Counter-Strike: Global Offensive, widely known as CS:GO, had 20 bets placed on them, although police sources did not state the bet amounts. The investigation began in March 2019 and revealed six gamers had purposely lost their matches.
Detectives from the Sporting Integrity Intelligence Unit and the Organised Crime Intelligence Unit arrested four men, one 22-year old man and two 20-year old men from Mill Park on Wednesday. Police arrested two 20-year old men from the Perth suburb of Mount Eliza on Friday. The six gamers are charged with making bets before throwing their matches.
Neil Paterson, the assistant commissioner for Victoria police, said police will continue to crack down on illegal betting rings.
“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.”
Paterson added, “These warrants also highlight that police will take any reports of suspicious or criminal activity within esports seriously, and we encourage anyone with information to come forward.”
Police released all six men on bail.
CS:GO is one of the most popular eSports games in the industry. Tournaments featuring the first-person tactical shooter created $22.47 million of prize pools last year. Only Dota 2 with $41.26 million boasted of a larger overall prize pool.
Revenues from CS:GO continue to rise each year, which is impressive for a seven-year-old game. The year 2018 saw $414 million of revenue, up from $341 million in 2017. The game pits two teams against each other and they have to eliminate the other team while completing separate tasks. Valve Corporation, the publisher of CS:GO, claims 11 million player log on each month and play the game.
eSports is one of the most rapidly growing businesses in the world. Analyst group Newzoo predicts a 26.7 percent increase in global eSports revenue from 2018 to $1.1 billion in 2019. Some 110 million eSports fans hail from Asia and the Pacific Islands. The video game industry is worth a staggering $87 billion worldwide, dwarfing the $1.1 billion figure generated by eSports.
Prizes are on the increase with some champions winning several million dollars. Kyle “Bugha” Giersdord, a 16-year old, recently won the Fortnite World Cup for $3 million. Giersdorf defeated 99 opponents to secure the solo title. A staggering 40 million people initially entered the tournament. The $30 million prize pool is the biggest Fortnite prize pool ever. Giersdord’s massive win surpassed that of the winner of Wimbledon ($2.98 million) and The Masters ($1.98 million).
Two other youngsters, Emil “Nyhrox” Berquist Pedersen and Thomas “Aqua” Arnould won $1.5 million each after winning the duo contest.
Organised criminals have seen an opportunity to influence the outcome of matches and then make money from betting markets. Several high-profile match-fixing scandals have been uncovered in recent years. CS:GO, Overwatch and League of Legends have all had their reputations tarnished by match-fixing.
South Korea’s Lee Seung-Hyun is one of the best StarCraft II players of all time. Seung-Hyun spent 18 months in jail and paid a KRW70,000,000 (AUD$85,650) fine after being found guilty of throwing two matches in 2016. He was also banned from competitive gaming in South Korea for life.
Match-fixing continues to be a major issue in eSports. Illegal eSports betting is worth an estimated $2 million per annum. Ian Smith, Integrity Commissioner, at the Esports Integrity Coalition. Smith’s 2016 report highlighted the United States and south-east Asia as two of the biggest gambling countries in the world.