Five Arrested Over E-Sports Match Fixing

Australia: Five men in their 20’s have been arrested and charged over a match fixing investigation by the Victoria Police Department. The crimes committed at the ESEA – Mountain Dew League video game tournament for the game Counter Strike: Global Offensive involved throwing matches in a conspiracy to make profits via sports betting markets.

An e-sports tournament.

E-sports tournaments across the world are ramping up their detection measures against match-fixing. ©dife88/Pixabay

The players involved in this case were acting unanimously in order to maximize their potential profit from the scheme. Betting on matches and choosing bets that involved a victory for their opponents were made via proxies who placed the bets on their behalf. Presumably the group would have gone undetected, but red flags were raised via artificial intelligence tools monitoring betting data and match gameplay to determine the likelihood of fraudulent activities.

The crimes which took place in August 2019 are being hailed as the first e-sports match fixing case in Australia. Betting companies around the world have been ramping up their detection measures for many years in an attempt to mitigate against the threat of e-sports match-fixing. The nature of the match fixing is often very subtle, it can be almost impossible to detect when players are not playing to their maximum potential. Betting regulators are finding it tremendously hard to quantify the effort of a player, were even a 5% drop in performance quality can have huge repercussions.

In this case, police believe that the crimes were committed over the course of five CS:GO matches. By aligning the game data with the contemporary betting data, the police have been able to spot betting anomalies and prove beyond any reasonable doubt that a betting conspiracy has occurred. Over the course of the corrupted matches, 20 suspicious bets were flagged with a total profit to match fixers totaling around $30,000.

The five men involved in the illegal betting ring are all very young. Four of the five men were 20 years old at the time of the incident, with the fifth aged 27. There crimes have been deemed to fall into the category of corrupt conduct information for betting purposes. Now they have been charged, the men are due to appear before a judge in September, if they are convicted and found guilty of these charges, they could end up in jail facing a 10 year sentence.

More Match Fixing Incidents Inevitable

The case involving the match fixers at the ESEA – Mountain Dew League tournament is by no means a surprise to anyone closely associated with the CS:GO community, and indeed the wider e-sports community in general. Criminal investigations are constantly being launched across the world as match-fixing is becoming a widespread problem across the whole sector.

The nature of these crimes makes them very difficult to spot, and even if suspicions are held regarding the conduct of some players, it can be incredibly difficult to prove in a court of law. Gamer forums and media covering the lower level e-sports tournaments is awash with complaints of match-fixing, and in this fight law enforcement and betting companies are terribly outgunned. Their only defense against the corruption is through the betting pattern data analytics, as the Sportradar and Tennis Australia partnership has successfully assisted with.

At the start of this investigation, the police department chief made clear that he is aware of the depth of e-sports betting corruption, and he commented,

I could absolutely guarantee that this wouldn’t be the only incidence of match fixing or betting anomalies on e-sports environments in the Australian market.Neil Patterson, Assistant Commissioner, Victoria Police Department

Sports betting in Australia has always been popular, and per capita, the Australians gamble the most amount on sport out of any country in the world. The majority of this gambling is conducted by the young men of the population, with current estimates stating that 34% of sports betting activity in Australia is through the bets made by 18-24 year old’s.

The sheer volume of young men betting, and increasingly betting on obscure markets in e-sports and non-traditional sports is creating a series of new challenges for the Australian betting companies and regulators. The new and emerging e-sports betting markets are packed full of vulnerabilities and exploit vectors, and in this game of cat and mouse, police are usually two or three step behind.

It is inevitable that this problem is only going to become more complex, and deeply-entrenched into the underworld of e-sports betting. Police forces will need to adapt, and the current mitigation tactics of using artificial intelligence tools to spot irregular betting patterns needs to be scaled and extended. Ultimately, to combat the global match-fixing problem, data analytics companies and bookmakers need to work in unison, and track wider betting patterns in overseas markets such as Asia, Australia and Europe.

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