Last year six semi-professional Australian Counter-Strike players made headlines around the world as they were arrested for allegedly throwing their league games, making potentially as much as $30,000 off betting on the outcome of at least five affected matches.
When this first came to the attention of the Victoria Police early last year, an investigation into the affair was immediately started, the first of its kind in Australian history.
That investigation has today concluded, with the Victoria Police Sporting Integrity Intelligence Unit announcing in a release that five of those men have been charged. Two twenty-year-old men from the Melbourne suburb of Mill Park have been charged with three counts of the “use of corrupt conduct information for betting purposes”.
Another Mill Park man has been charged with two counts of the same crime, as well as the engagement in “conduct that corrupts or would corrupt a betting outcome of an event or event contingency” and possession of cannabis.
Two other men, one from South Morang and one from Sale have also been charged with three and five counts respectively of the “use of corrupt conduct information for betting purposes”.
They will all be appearing in their respective Magistrates’ Courts on the 15th of September, in what could be a landmark case for esports law in Australia moving forward. The above charges all carry a maximum penalty of ten years imprisonment, again potentially setting a heavy-handed precedent for any semi-professional Counter-Strike players who are tempted by the allure of easy money.
The league in which these men were participating was unnamed when this news broke last year, however it is now believed to be about a team participating in the ESEA Mountain Dew League (MDL). According to today’s release, the investigation began in March last year after police were tipped off by a betting agency (believed to be Sportsbet) to suspicious activity on their platform.
That investigation came to a head in August last year when warrants were executed in three Melbourne suburbs (Mill Park, South Morang and Mount Eliza), as well as another warrant in Perth that was carried out by the Western Australia Police.
It is unclear what has transpired between August last year and now, however it appears that the suspect from Perth has been cleared of any wrongdoing with no charge being listed for them.
However, the fact remains that esports players are getting involved in serious offences at a young age without much regard for the potential consequences, a sentiment that Police Assistant Commissioner Neil Paterson shared when talking to ABC’s 7:30 last year.
Both interest in esports and esports betting have grown massively due to the COVID-19 pandemic, and as esports pushes more and more into the mainstream, it may be an unfortunate reality that this won’t be the last we see of esports match-fixing in Australia.
Whatever the case, $30,000 isn’t enough for five young men who have put both their careers and freedom in jeopardy by fixing just five games of Counter-Strike.