Match Fixing’s Shadow Looms Over eSports in the Run-Up to ICE 2024

Match Fixing's Shadow Looms Over eSports in the Run-Up to ICE 2024

The integrity of eSports, a rapidly growing industry, is under threat due to the prevalence of match-fixing, a problem not unfamiliar to traditional sports.

Ian Smith, the eSports Integrity Commission’s (ESIC) integrity commissioner, underscores the gravity of this issue. He particularly emphasizes its prevalence in lower-tier competitions, where financial incentives to cheat often surpass the rewards for honest play.

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The lure of match-fixing: A financial temptation

Smith points out that the temptation for match-fixing in eSports arises from a disparity in tournament prizes and earnings from betting fraud. Lower-tier eSports players, struggling financially, are often enticed by the prospect of earning more through match-fixing than by winning legitimate competitions. The betting markets on these matches frequently exceed the prize money, creating an environment ripe for corruption.

“The first is that markets are often offered on matches that have very low prize money, and the markets tend to be bigger than the prize money on offer,” Smith asserted.

The integrity commissioner further argues that expecting players to resist these temptations based solely on moral values is unrealistic. He emphasizes the need for robust measures to combat this issue. Unfortunately, the decentralized nature of eSports tournaments, with a wide range of event organizers, adds to the challenge. Many of these organizers lack the resources or knowledge to implement effective anti-corruption measures.

“The best way of addressing that is to join ESIC and let us handle the problem. But if you don’t want to do that, then you have to make sure you have decent regulations in place.”

Recent incidents and responses

The issue of match-fixing has led to several significant incidents. A professional Counter-Strike: Global Offensive (CS:GO) player was suspended by ESIC for betting on matches in which he was involved. In a more severe case, a Singaporean eSports player was jailed for participating in a match-fixing scheme during a Valorant game. These incidents underscore the seriousness of the problem.

In response, ESIC has taken proactive steps to address match-fixing. They have formed a joint effort with Victoria Police in Australia, enabling the Sporting Integrity Intelligence Unit to receive real-time alerts on suspicious betting activities. Additionally, ESIC has entered into an educational union with eSports betting operator to develop an Anti-Corruption Tutorial to educate players on ethical behavior. An “Anti-Cheat Partnership” with global games protection provider Denuvo by Irdeto also marks a significant step towards combating cheating and match-fixing.

The road ahead: challenges and criticisms

Despite these efforts, the battle against match-fixing in eSports is far from over. The industry’s young player demographic makes them particularly susceptible to manipulation by criminals. Moreover, ESIC faced criticism for its competence and lack of transparency, which hampers its effectiveness as a regulatory body.

The taboo surrounding match-fixing in eSports contributes to the industry’s credibility issues and impedes its growth. As the eSports world continues to evolve, addressing this problem remains a critical challenge that requires concerted effort from all stakeholders in the industry.

Image credits: Shutterstock, CC images, Midjourney, Unsplash.