The ongoing investigation into match-fixing and match betting in Oceanic Counter-Strike by the Esports Integrity Commission (ESIC) reached a shocking precipice yesterday, with the Commission announcing a ban on 35 new players in OCE, bringing the total banned to 42.
Ranging from 12 months to five years, the match betting sanctions come just weeks out from the resumption of the Counter-Strike season in the region, with 2021’s first iteration of ESEA’s Mountain Dew League now requiring well over half the registered teams to find replacements for the banned players.
No players were banned as a result of match-fixing from today’s findings, but in a statement posted by the ESIC with the sanctions, the commission “is of the view that there is a high possibility that it will issue match-fixing charges arising from the ongoing investigations, potentially including against players sanctioned.”
Players affected are able to query for evidence from the ESIC via email at email@example.com, with formal applications for appeals subject to a $500 AUD deposit, which would be returned upon proof of innocence.
Initial reaction to the announcement from industry leaders was of disappointment at how deep match betting ran in Counter-Strike in Australasia, but disappointment soon gave way to uproar following numerous banned players claiming innocence, with some stating they had never bet at all on any CS:GO matches in OCE.
The ball is very much in ESIC’s court now, given the number of players claiming innocence who have not been presented with any evidence, whether it is publicly at large or privately issued.
Michael Carmody, business manager for Legacy Esports and Oceanic esports figurehead, invited falsely accused players to approach and collaborate in a group effort to contact ESIC and clear the air over the sanctions.
A point of contention that was raised in ESIC’s initial findings in October was that at the time, ESEA rules only explicitly stated betting on matches that players actively participated in was illegal, with no mention of betting on other matches within the league.
But as a member of ESIC, ESEA abides by the commission's code of ethics, which strictly opposes betting on any match within an esport a player is participating.
Should such false positives be identified, it would not be the first case for the independent commission, who in their September 2020 findings amended the sanctions of a number of coaches that were involved in the coach spectator bug investigation.
Community members also identified an issue with ESIC’s decision to go public with the sanctions, with Brooks Pierce esports attorney Ryan Fairchild criticising the commission’s decision to issue breach notices simultaneously with the public announcement - breaking their own protocol for such an event.
The effects of these sanctions are still sinking in for the region, with the announcement likely to reverberate for months, or even years to come. Here’s The Thing’s investigation is ongoing - stay tuned to HTT for updates as more information and evidence comes to light.