Police and tournament organizers have arrested Australian Counter-Strike players for match-fixing and illicit betting. The situation is so serious that the FBI is now interested in cleaning up North America, too. Esports Integrity Commission is working with law enforcement to tackle the situation.
Match-Fixing among Counter-strike Players
The information was revealed in a recent YouTube interview with Ian Smith, Esports Integrity Commission’s (ESIC) commissioner. ESIC is the organization that has collaborated with Victoria Police to deal with match-fixing across Australian Counter-Strike, but the issue is far deeper than that.
In a chat with YouTuber slash32, Smith explained that there was an ongoing investigation targeted at a small but important group of players suspected of match-fixing in North American MDL.
“It’s what I would describe as classic match-fixing,” said Smith. Betting syndicates bribe players to rig matches, rather than players doing so on their own initiative, because it’s been going on for so long, it’s much more organized than suspected.
Smith continued by stating that they collaborated with law enforcement and the FBI, which recently formed a sports betting investigation unit. The unit is competent, but they lack expertise, as sports betting has never been a common thing in the United States until recently. As a result, everyone is still getting their grips on the situation.
Smith also gave an update on the inquiry into match-fixing in Australia. Though Australia’s response to match-fixing has slowed things down (match-fixing is a criminal offense in Australia), Smith said charges would be announced within a couple of weeks.
The huge bans given to Australian players earlier this year is the case Smith is referring to. For making a bet on their own matches, some players earned yearly infractions.
However, a small group of players was suspended for making multiple bets against their own team in matches they were playing in.
In the interview, Smith stated that ESIC was able to construct their case by cross-referencing information from in-game chat, Discord logs, and other corroborating content.
Match-Fixing Is a Problem
Sportradar, managing director of integrity services Andreas Krannich, explained that match-fixers would continue to target vulnerable leagues. The syndicates also learned their lesson, recognizing that match-fixing is a “significant change” for them. Syndicates, however, have been using the power of digital communication to contact coaches, teams, players, and referees in the hopes of striking an agreement.
He slammed the stance of most sports organizations and lawmakers, claiming that sports betting is the source of all match-fixing problems.
According to Krannich, once a sport becomes popular enough, betting starts, and interest increases.
Part of the reason North America is lagging, in this case, is that legal esports betting was not legitimate in the United States until recently. That hasn’t prevented fans and players from placing bets, but it hasn’t piqued regulators’ interest in their respective jurisdictions until it became legal.
Because of how each state works, the United States essentially has 51 separate territories and licensing rules, while countries such as Australia only operate on a national basis.