Five men have been charged with match-fixing offences as part of the first Australian criminal investigation into esports.
Detectives from the Victoria Police Sporting Integrity Intelligence Unit charged the men last week with serious offences subject to maximum penalties of 10 years’ imprisonment.
The ABC revealed last year that police suspected matches in a semi-professional esports league had been thrown, and that associates of the team had been told to bet on them.
Assistant Commissioner Neil Paterson told 7.30 last September police believed as much as $30,000 had been won betting on the fixed matches.
Esports is considered the fastest growing sport in the world, and the Australian investigation sent reverberations throughout the industry, despite it allegedly involving little-known teams and players.
The investigation started in March last year. It centred on a team playing hugely popular first-person shooter game Counter Strike: Global Offensive in the ESEA-Mountain Dew League.
A 20-year-old man from Mill Park in Melbourne’s outer-north has been charged with two counts of engaging in conduct that corrupts or would corrupt a betting outcome, two counts of using corrupt conduct information for betting purposes, and possessing cannabis.
Two other 20-year-old men from Mill Park and another 20-year-old man from the nearby suburb of South Morang have all been charged with three counts of using corrupt conduct information for betting purposes.
A 27-year-old man from Sale in Victoria’s east has been charged with five counts of using corrupt conduct information for betting purposes.
The men will face court in Melbourne and Sale in September.
Following last weekend’s conclusion of Chapter 2 – Season 2, Epic Games has announced a new online invitational tournament.
The Fortnite Champion Series Invitational will feature up to 600 players per region, and award a total of $2 million in prize money across all regions.
— Esports (@esports) April 25, 2020
Assistant Commissioner Paterson said last year that the men allegedly involved in the fixing had gone to the same high school and university, and were from normal suburban Melbourne families.
“We’ve got young men, typically 19- or 20-year-olds, who have no history with police,” he said.
“They’re [allegedly] getting involved in [corruption] offences … at quite a young age that have serious consequences for them.”
“The sheer volume of young men involved in gambling, both in high school and in universities, is at epidemic proportions.
“What I’m not seeing is anyone doing anything particularly about that.”
Interest in esports, including in betting on matches, has ballooned during the global COVID-19 pandemic, which has forced traditional sports to temporarily shut down.
Major sporting leagues, including the National Basketball Association in the US and soccer’s English Premier League, have even staged video game tournaments featuring professional players facing off online.