What just happened? With huge audiences, prize money, and betting, eSports resembles traditional sports more than ever before—and that also means match fixing. In Australia, five people have been charged with throwing Counter-Strike: Global Offensive matches to gain winnings after betting against themselves.
Back in August last year, six CS:GO players were arrested during an investigation into suspicious betting activity in a semi-professional eSports league. The investigation, by Victoria Police's Sporting Integrity Intelligence Unit, covered more than five matches where more than 20 bets were placed.
Now, charges have been brought against five of those arrested. In a statement from Victoria Police, it’s revealed that four 20-year-olds and a 27-year-old have been charged with “use of corrupt conduct information for betting purposes,” which carries a maximum ten-year jail sentence.
One of the five has also been charged with possession of cannabis and "conduct that corrupts or would corrupt a betting outcome of an event or event contingency."
Speaking to ABC News last year, Assistant Commissioner Neil Paterson said AU$30,000 could have been won on the fixed matches. That amount is a drop in the water compared to what many top professionals make, but more than what some amateurs and semi-pros earn across their entire careers.
"The motivation is greed. It's money," Paterson said. "The people that are professional players can make millions of dollars. These players were at the other end."
Match fixing is just one form of corruption that has been creeping into eSports over the last few years, something that University of Sydney lecturer Mark Johnson blames on the public’s lack of understanding of what eSports is.
"The video game industry is worth more than films and music combined, but they are still not taken seriously," he said. "I don't really watch traditional sports but I know what they are, whereas if you don't watch esports you don't know anything about them."
The five men will appear in court this September 15.