In the growing market of eSports betting, match-fixing and corruption are gaining notoriety. This week, the Head of eSports, James Watson, at Sportradar has been fired for gambling. Employees at the data monitoring firm are strictly forbidden to use their knowledge to gamble. The irony of the situation is that the company specialises in offering solutions to prevent match-fixing in sports.
According to reports from Sportradar, Watson had not been using his position to place insider bets. Unfortunately, he has been caught creating multiple accounts to bet on eSports matches. This revelation came from Unikrn, an eSports betting platform licensed in the jurisdiction of Malta. What’s more, the CEO of Unikrn was the one to accuse Watson via Twitter. The CEO, Rahul Sood, called out Watson after tracing multiple accounts in his name.
Sportradar has a strict policy where staff ‘must be beyond reproach.’ Following Mr Sood’s tweet, the company announced that they had launched an ‘internal inquiry.’ Findings proved that Watson had not ‘been using insider information’ or betting on events that would raise ‘integrity concerns.’ What’s more, there was no evidence that Watson had tried to influence betting market prices with his accounts.
However, his behaviour still went against the Sportradar’s policies. More so, it has impacted the eSports industry, which has already seen numerous match-fixing scandals. One professional player, Lee Seung Hyun, was arrested in 2016 after throwing matches. He is still serving an 18-month sentence for his crimes in South Korea.
Part of the appeal for match-fixing lies in the small prize pools for professional gamers at smaller tournaments. Sadly, this makes eSports especially vulnerable to match-fixing and corruption since the ‘top heavy’ prize structure has made the practice appealing to players. In terms of professional sports, gamers don’t earn as much as rugby or cricket players. However, this might just change because the eSports industry is growing faster than expected.