The Counter-Strike and Esports community are once again rattled with controversy, and this time the accusations are severe. According to Richard Lewis, one of the top Esports reporters in the community, there is currently an FBI investigation looking into Counter-Strike match fixing. Unlike previous match fixing scandals in North America, this seems to be well organized, and this is why the FBI and other government agencies have gotten involved.
What we currently know is that the match fixing scandal involved the North American MDL. This is the second tier of the ESL Pro League, and the winners of the MDL are promoted to the actual Pro League. The league contains 17 teams with a mixture of amateur and professional teams. However, there are several places to wager on these second-tier league games.
The news broke about the incident when reporter slash32 interviewed the head of the Esports Integrity Commission, Ian Smith. In this 32-minute long video, the two dive into what is happening; however, many details are spared due to the FBI investigation. The big quote being floated around and highlighted in the title is, “It’s players being bribed by outside betting syndicates.” This would lead one to believe that it may not be the players themselves organizing this but simply being approached by fixers and organized groups.
The iBuyPower Scandal
The most famous example of match fixing happened in 2014, when the number one American Counter-Strike team, iBuyPower, purposefully lost a match to NetCodeGuides, a lesser-rated team. The team was approached by an outside party who placed a large wager of “skins,” an in-game item that has real-world value on the Steam Market Place, on the opposing team. It was proved that four out of the five members accepted the payment and purposefully lost the game.
There was no formal investigation by any government agency, but Valve, the owners of Counter-Strike, banned four of the five members of the team. This had a significant impact on the CSGO community as the reputation was slightly tarnished. There was also the fact that this demolished the North American CSGO scene for a short while as four popular and top players were now permanently banned from competing.
Esports Integrity Community
Over the last seven years since iBuyPower, there have been several other small scandals involving Counter-Strike and other Esports games. Due to this, the ESIC, Esports Integrity Community was formed. While the top teams in many Esports actually earn a large chunk of money, it is the second-tier leagues and smaller games that have trouble with match fixing. Simply put, the players do not make enough money to not be tempted by outside forces.
This is a classic issue, and it is part of the reason that single-game sports betting was banned in America and Canada all those years ago. While these issues no longer really persist for the top-tiers of sporting leagues, due to the money you make by simply playing the game with integrity, this is still an issue for smaller sports and second-tier leagues, especially Esports.
The ESIC is working together with whistleblowers as well as government agencies to hopefully crack down on this issue. Esports is a major player in the sports entertainment and sports gambling world. This is a place as important as any to have a watchdog and keep the games legitimate. This will be a very important case to follow over the next few months.