We’ve seen plenty of Australians get pinged by police and tournament organisers for match fixing and illegal betting in Counter-Strike, but the problem is apparently so bad that the FBI is now getting involved to clean up North America.
This story originally appeared on Kotaku Australia.
The revelation came from a new interview on YouTube with Ian Smith, the commissioner of Esports Integrity Commission (ESIC). ESIC is the body that’s worked alongside Victoria Police to deal with the match fixing and throwing in Australian Counter-Strike, but as you’d expect, the problem goes much deeper than that.
In a chat with YouTuber slash32, Smith outlined how there was an ongoing investigation “amongst a relatively small but significant group of players over a long period of time, organised match fixing in North American MDL“.
“[It’s] what I would describe as classic match fixing — players being bribed by outside betting syndicates in order to fix matches, rather than players just doing it off their own bat opportunistically, and it’s being going on for longer, it’s much more organised. So again, to some extent we’re working with law enforcement and the FBI, who only recently have had a sports betting investigative unit within the FBI. They’re good, but they’re inexperienced, because sports betting has never been a big thing in America until recently, so everybody’s kind of finding their feet on that one,” Smith said.
Smith also provided an update on match fixing investigations in Australia. While Australia’s approach to match fixing had slowed things down — match fixing is a criminal offense here — Smith said they would be able to announce charges within a couple of weeks.
“I’m optimistic that we’ll be able to go public with this soon, within the next 10 days to 2 weeks,” the ESIC commissioner said. “The betting scandal in Australia where whilst it was a large group of players – and there definitely is match fixing there, and we’re working with law enforcement there, it takes a lot longer there once you start working with the police. Fortunately in Australia, these are criminal offences. So getting it all coordinated with the police takes a lot longer. We’ve got great solid cases there, and if it was just us acting alone, we’d announce those prosecutions now. But it isn’t all 42 guys that were betting — it’s a much smaller group within that who were not just betting, but manipulating outcomes.”
The case Smith is referring to is the massive bans handed out to Australian players earlier this year. Some players received yearly infractions for placing a bet on their own matches. A small group of players within that, however, were banned for placing multiple bets against their own team in matches they were playing in, and in the interview Smith said ESIC has been able to cross-reference evidence from in-game chat, Discord logs and other corroborating material to build their case.
Part of why North America is a bit behind in this case is because legal esports betting hasn’t been kosher in the United States until fairly recently. That hasn’t stopped fans and players from laying bets, but it doesn’t really attract the attention of regulators in their respective territories until it becomes legal. The US also effectively has 50 different territories and licensing laws thanks to how every single state operates, whereas countries like Australia just operate on a national framework.
As for the Australian charges, Smith had this to say:
“The first part we’ll deal with quite quickly, because we’re dealing with idiots, basically,” Smith said.
Not that it needs to be said, but honestly: stop betting on your own Counter-Strike matches. Just stop it.